The complex world of social networking has been ‘rocked’ by the introduction of Google+, an event that gives technology writers the opportunity to type phrases like ‘the web giant’s answer to Facebook’ or ‘salvo’ or ‘shot across the bow’ or other fashions of combining words in order to invest readers with the sense that Google making some kind of move to ‘roll out’ social networking across its product and service offering was sufficiently momentous to be a ‘game changer’.
People apparently like to discuss the narrative arcs of social networking utilities as if they were team sports; on the matter of Twitter people enjoy hyperbole such as ‘Twitter started the Egyptian revolution’ or ‘Twitter is changing [something] forever’, while in the media Facebook is accorded the same degree of personification, cultural analysis and debate as would a country. The demise of MySpace was met with precisely the same blend of nostalgia and cynicism as would the death of Lindsay Lohan.
The magnitude of Google+’s arrival on the ‘scene’ means that individuals feel obligated to discuss or otherwise acknowledge Google+ whether or not they are using it. Those who are not using it may not yet have received an ‘invite’. Invites are simply the system the service is using to manage the rate of subscriber growth as it continues to test out and refine various Google+ features, and it is not very difficult for interested parties to gain access and then grow their base of friends should they aim to cultivate one.
However, that there is an ‘invite’ system also seems to make the service somehow more desirable or more subject to judgment of elitism, resulting in numerous people complaining about not having yet received their invite, responding to invite giveaways by their friends on Facebook and Twitter, and/ or drawing/ reading/ sharing web comics where Google+ is anthropomorphized as some type of ‘snobby hipster’ cliché as compared to other services that are being rendered as friendly mainstream bros.
Others are not using Google+ simply because they are not particularly interested in social networking. These are often people who were a number of years late to Facebook, delaying on the basis that ‘I can just call my friends on the phone,’ or who are now saying things like ‘I don’t do Facebook’ or ‘I can’t stand Facebook’ without being able to explain why. These are also the people who claim to dislike or not to understand Twitter, who have ‘lapsed’ Twitter accounts or who otherwise make statements like ‘nobody needs to know what I am eating for breakfast’.
But those who are using Google+ are engaged in a variety of behaviors on this ‘new frontier’ of social networking, and the most popular ones are as follows.
New users arrive on the service and promptly begin discussing it amongst themselves. Many will post statements to the effect of Google+’s supremacy to Facebook, noting that they no longer have any reason to use Facebook within five minutes on the service. Others will decide that their status as early adopter has come with an additional mantle of punditry, and they will opine quite authoritatively on the strengths and flaws of the new service and how they expect to see it evolve, i.e. wondering re Android apps, integration with other Google services such as ‘Docs’ or ‘Buzz’. Rare skeptics will use Google+ to complain about why they are unlikely to get much use out of Google+.
More conservative or casual users will simply make cute ‘quips’ such as ‘well I’m here’ or puns to do with ‘circles’. In extreme cases, users will read things like ‘changelogs’ or ‘dev diaries’ or actually communicate with Google community management employees and excitedly keep their friends apprised of their thoughts.
Adding People To Circles
The primary ‘thing’ about Google+ is that instead of having a ‘friends list’ you have ‘circles’ of your friends. Google shows you people you might know and it gives you the option not only to add them on Google+, but to sort them into circles based on how and why you know them, assumedly to filter whether they can see your updates or not but actually for no ostensible purpose, the sort of tool that abstractly sounds like a good idea/ seems like it would be valuable but then has no practical impact when in use.
‘Circle of Friends’ is the name of an excellent national program for high school students working to help physically and mentally disabled peers feel socially included at school; it is acceptable to remember this program every time you use Google+.
Wondering About/ Greeting Strangers
Most people who are proponents of Google+ say they are excited that the people adding them on the service are their actual friends/ people they actually know IRL and are legitimately interested in having contact with, versus Facebook which is assumed to be cluttered with distant acquaintances, unwanted relatives, ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, professional connections and other people that the Facebook user willingly accepted friend requests from or to whom they sent friend requests at some point in time and have not since removed.
However, people are so excited to be adding people to circles that one is liable to be added by any number of strangers or minor acquaintances, resulting in numerous Tweets/ Facebook posts/ Google+ posts reading things to the effect of ‘who are all these people adding me on Google+?’ For example, when I am added by someone on Google+ and I know/ like them I rapidly put them into one or more ‘circles’, however if I don’t at all recognize them I don’t put them into any circles. As of now I have added 143 people to circles, whereas 1143 people have added me. Who are all these people adding me on Google+?
Facebook popularized the word ‘Like’ as a noun, through its interface by which people demonstrate approval for something by clicking ‘Like’ thus making it possible to measure how widely approved-of an image, comment or link is by how many ‘likes’ it has received. Google+ allows people to ‘like’ things by clicking a blue button that says ‘+1’. This makes the noun form of approval on Google+ to be predictably ‘plus-ones’, as in, ‘my picture received six plus-ones on Google+’.
Although the form of +1 has not yet been concretely established it looks likely that ‘plus-one-ing’ will be how people vocalize their expression of approval for things on Google+, e.g: “I don’t know really what there is to do on Google+ so I just go through my feed plus-one-ing everything.” It is possible that early adopters can entertain and thereby cement various alternate spellings, such as “plus-oneing” or “+1ing”.
It seems possible that “plus-one-ing” is meant to move a statement higher up in one’s ‘feed’, similar to the failed, inscrutable ‘buzz up’ which Google has attempted to implement in the past. However if the plus-one-ing has any purpose different from Facebook ‘likes’, it isn’t immediately evident. Going to type “+1” on my friends’ Facebook posts so that they can ‘like’ it, an indicator of our ironic appreciation and fledgling interest in Google+.