Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Google+ and the Integrated Person

I had a short exchange on Google+ today, with someone who'd suggested in a comment that a recent blog post of mine was "manufactured" and "irresponsible."  It was interesting, in that it represented the first time I've ever had any sort of interaction on that new-ish social network.

About two months ago, I plopped into Google+, along with everyone else.  This was, in the event you've forgotten, supposed to be a very big deal.  Here, finally, was a threat to Facebook's total dominance of the social network marketplace.   The "pitch" for this new network was that it would revolutionize social media.  Now, finally, there was a way to insure that your mom wasn't going to see you tagged in that picture backin' up and/or gettin' freaky on that skeeve while clubbing at 2:32 am Sunday morning.   

"But honey, didn't you say you couldn't make it to church because you had the flu?"

Having been kept outside with the rest of the rabble by the virtual bouncers at the gate as the hip and the powerful were admitted, I expected something different.  When I arrived on Google+, I expected to experience the humming chatter of eager first-adopters, as the net-elite filled the new network with their radiant, connected savvy.   

Instead, it was like going back and visiting my MySpace page.  It was dead as a doornail, as stale as canned laughter.   There was nothing going on.  

So I got to wondering why.

Part of it, I'm sure, is social network fatigue.  Those friends on Facebook haven't all migrated over, nor has everyone who follows you on Twitter.  Managing all of it is undoubtedly too much, and once you're invested in several online communities, you're probably at your saturation point.   There's only so scattered we can get, after all.

But I did wonder if perhaps...perhaps...the whole "Circles" thing is part of the reason that Google+ has proven so anticlimactic.  I've never seen any reason to break my online presence out into discrete and separate demographic groups.  It becomes yet another thing to manage, and Lord knows we don't need that.

There's something else, though.  Something more important.  If I post something on Facebook, or write something here, I don't care who sees it.  If you're an evangelical Christian or an atheist, a friend or a troll or my mom, you're welcome to see what I put out there.  

Rule of thumb, in the online world?  Never write or say anything that you're not willing to have everyone see.  That includes your aforementioned mother and the gentle-spirited eight year old child of the person whose web-site you're trolling.  Think and try to be discerning before you hit return or click post.

It's not a bad rule in life, actually.  For despite the unreflective self-indulgent me-ness of this era, self-editing is not dishonest.  It's the hallmark of both wisdom and personal integrity.  So what I say all represents me.

Well, not entirely all.  There's stuff I do and think that I don't put online.  There are things in my life that are intimate, and things in my life that I occasionally struggle with, that I'm not going to disclose in a long rambly post or a TMI moment on Facebook.

For those things, I talk to other people.  Face to face.  Person to person.  There, I don't really need another circle, nor do I need a mediating structure to help me connect with it.  That circle already exists, and is woven out of the flesh and faces of friends and family.

Maybe Google+ will survive.  But does it need to?  I don't think I'd even notice if it was gone.