We have a Bishop in this little part of the Church of England. he goes by the name Graham. As a CofE Bishop he gets the right and probable pleasure of being able to sign his name +Graham. All well and good until the other day I noticed using shorthand that he had signed +G for ease, which my rather addled, mildly lysdexic brain read as G+.
The thing about Google+ (see what I did there?) is that I don’t quite know what it’s for. It has some good little features, like circles and until the Android app started crashing my phone, I like the way it backed up photos to a private web album on G+. But still what exactly is it?
One thin I don’t like about G+ is Google’s insistence that I am known publically by my real name (for now I’ve worked around this). I use Facebook and Twitter in different ways. The vast majority of the people I follow on Twitter and those who follow me are not friends or even people I have met. Yet we network in ways that would not be possible without Twitter. In contrast everyone I know via Facebook is a friend or acquaintance I have met at least once or know through other ways.
Google+ has turned this model on it’s head – merging and mixing my online worlds in a way I would never have intended to do. As a result my anonymity with twitter folk is shot and my online peace of mind with it. I do not maintain anonymity for the sake of it, but as a level of protection between me and my family and a sharp edged world that has bitten us before. Sure anyone who wanted to dig could find out enough to work out who or where ‘Kneewax’ is but it just gave that extra level between us and the world. This I do not like. The circles aspect is great as it allows me to dicide who sees a particular update, but that in itself is not enough. To my twitter loving mind the basic profile premise of G+ is flawed for this reason.
The other thing is that G+ feels a little like its the product of a business meeting where they looked at all that is good about twitter and all that is bad about facebook and decided it would be shrewd to place a product in the middle. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly prefer the G+ interface and the ‘feel’ of it to the ubiquitous Facebook, but I wonder if it is too little too late.
Then again maybe not, according to an article quoted in a recent edition of “The Week” Facebook membership is declining for the in its history. This means that folk are not just getting bored of FB but actively closing their accounts faster than new ones are being opened. I have long toyed with closing my own account but have never quite done so for one reason and one reason alone. Despite the privacy issues, the unpleasant user experience of Facebook and the insecure feeling of the site (I am never entirely sure my privacy settings do what they claim) I continue to be an occasional user because FB has allowed me to make contact with folk I had previously lost touch with. I do not want to lose contact with these people again. FB is for me primarily a more advanced version of FriendsReunited.
Until such time as G+ has the user uptake of Facebook I really have no real compulsion to start using it in earnest. Social networking in my opinion is sonmething that should enhance our real lives, it is not as doomsayers and ridiculous Radio4 pundits often claim a replacement for real life. However the more places I have to maintain an online presence the less time I will inevitably have for real life!
Having said all that Google+ is in its infancy and it maywell yet prove to be quite a phenomenon. I’ve been wrong before and was no fan of twitter when I first tired it as I blogged back in ’09. I am sure to be back extolling its virtues with a humble and contrite heart at some point in the future.
But for now I think twitter is still the place for me.