For people who love to socialize but prefer to do it without having anyone anywhere near them, last week was one to remember.
Google+ is now a part of our lives.
The social-media platform actually launched last month but only for an elite set that Google deemed worthy of extending a personal invitation to. Please don’t feel hurt if you didn’t receive such a special personal invitation.
Until last week, Google had mainly invited technologists, web engineers and code developers to join Google+ in order to be absolutely certain that the service functioned properly even among people with no social skills. But Google has now opened the floodgates to all of us. This is tremendously exciting as it marks the search giant’s first foray into social media, if you don’t count their failed forays into social media.
(For those of you interested, there’s a memorial service for Google Wave scheduled for this coming Sunday at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. In lieu of sending flowers, Google is asking people to click on the 1-800-FLOWERS Google ad.)
Google’s relentless commitment to helping us in our online social lives is, indeed, a testament to how much the company cares about people, especially people who were negatively impacting their revenue by spending all their time on Facebook.
Speaking of Facebook, the big question everyone is asking is: How does Google+ compare to it?
Well, it is very, very different. For example, instead of Facebook’s “News Feed” where you “share what’s on your mind,” on Google+, there’s a “Stream” where you “share what’s new.”
There is actually a difference there.
If something’s on your mind but it’s not new, indeed it’s been on your mind constantly for the past 15 years, like whether you could have impregnated that person you met at Excalibur when you were 22 and the one condom you had with you broke when it got caught in the Chumbawamba CD case you opened for a little mood music, and whether now there’s a 10th grader somewhere out there who looks just like you … well, that’s for Facebook, not Google+.
And that’s not the only difference between the two services.
Instead of clicking “Like” below a person’s status update, as on Facebook, on Google +, you click “1+.”
Instead of being able to add a photo, link or video to your status update, as on Facebook, on Google+, the order is photo, video, link.
And instead of a friend-finding function like on Facebook that creepily seems to know every person you’ve encountered since you were four years old, Google+ has a … well, friend-finding function that creepily seems to know every person you’ve encountered since you were four years old.
In other words, it’s only a matter of days before Google+ is sued by the Winklevoss twins.
There are actually legitimate differences between how Google+ and Facebook work. So, here is, I hope, a helpful three-step guide to navigating the new service.
1. Instead of “friending” someone, like on Facebook, and having everyone lumped into one omnibus group of “friends,” on Google+, you drop the people you choose to friend into various circles you create. You can then share things within specific circles.
For example, you can make a circle for good friends and call it “Friends Circle,” a circle for your relatives and call it “Relatives Circle,” a circle for people you don’t like and call it “Circle Jerks” and so on.
In the New York Times, columnist David Pogue explains it better. He writes: “Creating (the circles) is a blast: an array of tiles represents your online acquaintances… . You drag each one into an actual on-screen circle, where they tumble into place.”
Pogue is right: Creating the circles really is a blast, if your definition of a blast is dragging your mouse.
There is, though, something disconcerting about the whole Circles business. Yes, we all have various social circles in life but to actually define them — and to do it so specifically — seems distasteful. It’s actually the antithesis of the way social interactions and our social lives can work so wonderfully in real life.
That said, having many circles does ensure you’re not sharing the wrong things with the wrong people. Hence, my circles “Crush-Fetish Friends,” “Armpit-F—king Friends” and “Newt Gingrich for President Supporters.”
2. The best element of Google+ is something called “Sparks.” Here you can type in any topic you’re interested in and you will receive links to all kinds of stories about that topic. For example, if you typed in “cycling” today, you’d likely receive some links about the Tour de France.
Sparks is truly a nifty feature, and it’s almost as good as typing a topic into www.google.com.
3. Lastly, while status updates on Facebook can and should be about anything under the sun, on Google+, all status updates must, until further notice, be about Google+ itself.
There’s probably more to the Google+ service, but I am just one man, one man who spent five minutes on the site. But, hey, that’s enough to get you started.
So, please, enjoy Google+. It really is a great way to share what you’re up to with friends and family after you’ve shared the exact same thing on Facebook with the exact same people.
(Editors note: This piece was written and performed for this weekend’s The Paper Machete)