A few days ago, I found an invitation to Google+ in my inbox. I had an opportunity, thanks to a friend of mine on the ‘inside’, to be in one of the first few waves of users to experience all that Big Mother Google had in store with this new set of features. I hovered my cursor over the link to sign up.
And hovered some more.
And kept on hovering. It was getting a little uncomfortable, frankly, the arrow just sitting there like a little cursor teabag gone wrong. And still I didn’t click the link.
“Sparks? Hangouts? Circles? Were these social networking tools, or bedroom names at a swingers’ party?”
Why? I was thinking through whether I really, truly wanted to. New sites and features are cool — but they’re not always worth the hassle. Is a Google Facebook better than a Facebook Facebook? What did I really know about this thing, anyway? Sparks? Hangouts? Circles? Were these social networking tools, or bedroom names at a swingers’ party? I didn’t know. And I decided I could live without finding out. I wasn’t going to click the link.
Then I sneezed. And accidentally clicked the link.
So now I’m on Google+. Yay for involuntary spasms, I suppose.
But now that I’m in, I’m more flummoxed than ever. Not because I don’t understand it, exactly. It’s just another freaking thing — another little cluttered corner of the interwebs — that I’m supposed to customize and configure and set up just the way I want it. And therein lies the problem. I don’t ‘want it’, per se. I just have mild allergies, and was mousing in the wrong place at the wrong time when they kicked in.
So I don’t especially want to think about things like ‘Circles’. That’s one of the features Google is touting, crowing about the granularity it provides. On Facebook, everyone’s a ‘friend’. There’s no way to differentiate — you toss your best friend in with your nosy aunt with the neighbor’s kid’s barber’s meth dealer, and just try to keep them straight. This Google+ doodad is better, says the docs, because now you can stratify people into different ‘circles’ and treat them each as you like.
Well, that’s just great — if you’re the kind of person who pigeonholes people you know into little restrictive boxes, and never thinks of them differently once you’ve attached a prejudicial label of some kind to your conception of them.
And I am. Totally. But I never had to do it so systematically. And it’s frustrating as hell.
Just for instance, let’s say I created a circle named “People Who Try to Tell Me About What Happened on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and Don’t Take a Hint That I Don’t Give Half a Rat’s Pimply Ass, So I Stopped Returning Their Emails”. Just theoretically. And let’s say I filled that circle up with lots of people I know. And let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I had another circle called “Any Jackhole Who’s Ever Mentioned the Show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ to Me in a Positive Light”. And I put another bunch of people in that circle. Hypothetically.
Well, that’s a lot of freaking work right there. And I’ve only covered two kinds of people — two kinds who aren’t mutually exclusive, I might add. There’d be a lot of ‘two-strike’ cowboys in that rodeo, is all I’m saying. A lot. And that barely touches the television category. What about all the people I want to treat differently based on the way they dress, or what word they use when they answer the phone, or where they suggest for lunch, or which way they put the toilet paper roll on the holder, or how they feel this week about high-fructose corn syrup? Keeping all these people straight in my head is hard enough — now I’m supposed to document all these crazy tendencies and behaviors? What am I, Sigmund Freud over here all of a sudden?
So I ditched all that nonsense. I pared it down to one circle — “Just Zis Guy, You Know?” — and dumped everybody I ever met online or off into that. So now it’s Facebook again, only without the poking. Unless all the poking happens in the ‘Hangout’ bedroom. I don’t think I have the secret sexy password for that.
For the sake of trying it, I clicked on ‘Sparks’ to see what the hell it is. Sadly, what it wasn’t was an homage to the semi-obscure L.A. band of the same name. And sadlier, when it turned out to be some kind of shared interest finder doohickey, the ‘Featured Interest’ list included ‘Fashion’, ‘Cycling’, ‘Gardening’ and ‘Recipes’.
I feel like I just ran the “Shit I’ll Have an Interest In When I’m Dead, Buried, and Pooped Through a Bunch of Worms” category on Jeopardy.
(“I’ll take Rock Tumbling for $500, Alex.” “Oooooh — that’s the Daily Double!”)
Insofar as I’m still logging in occasionally, I’m giving Google+ a chance. And people that I know are trickling in — mostly saying the same things I see them saying on Facebook or Twitter or in the bar down the street when we meet up for drinks. Is another outlet really necessary? Are we going overboard with this social networking frenzy? Do swingers’ parties really have signs on the bedroom doors?
Don’t ask me. I’m just zis guy, you know?