So in recent days Google has released Google+… and the people have rejoiced. Or at least the people who don’t like Facebook (anymore) have rejoiced. Okay, fine… so it’s mostly geeks rejoicing. Why? Well… you see there is this small problem with social networking sites. They (usually) start off great, then slowly… or in the case of Myspace, quickly, become online gaming venues. And not even good ones. But with the emergence of Myspace and Facebook, a whole new world opened up. Networking on the internet wasn’t limited to e-mail, forums, and instant messaging. Blogs had already evolved beyond LiveJournal into something actually worth looking at… and for some people, the internet had become a viable place to live their lives… or second ones anyway.
So yay for the internet! Or something. But then games evolved… and expanded, or rather shrunk, and on came Zynga. Those of you who don’t know who/what Zynga is, congratulations… it’s possible that you’ve never played Farmville (or Cafe World… or Mafia Wars… or FrontierVille… or… you get the picture). Gaming on social networking sites overwhelmed those of use who legitimately wanted to use them for… well, networking. Keeping in contact with old/lost friends. Finding new friends. Looking for new music… (more on that later). But it wasn’t all bad. Twitter came onto the scene with a bang. Status updates for your life, not just on Facebook? I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t at least look at twitter, let alone have an account there (other than possibly my grandmother… but hey, she doesn’t count, right?). And then there’s Tumblr, a little notebook on the internet. I know people that use Tumblr almost like a blog. While I can’t bring myself to use it that way, it is useful for information dumping and randomness. Like a sketchpad for my brain.
Now don’t get me wrong, of course there are “other” social networking sites that still stay true to the original idea. But honestly… they are boring. Ah ha! The Catch-22. Boring… is boredom why the games have infiltrated the other social networking sites? Possibly. But boredom can be circumvented by other means. Better interface, more interesting design. More customization. The possibilities are endless, really, before you sell your soul to Zynga. One would argue music on your profiles, or even just music in general. Ah, but Myspace covered that, remember? And it’s nice… except when I find an old friend… go to their page, and suddenly get blasted by the latest and… worst Top 40 pop hit. Because I want to hear your music? I don’t assume people want to hear mine (though that doesn’t stop me from playing it at potentially deafening volumes… but that’s not my problem… I contain that to my physical world… not the internet). And one might argue that the introduction of music on Myspace was the advent of gaming there… more interactive-ness!
But a thought does occur to me. Isn’t the gaming on these site’s helping the point of them? Connecting with new people… blah blah blah. Yes and no. While I have met new people via Castle Age or FarmVille (yes, I have played the games… a gamer, what do you expect… plus how could I legitimize bashing them if I don’t try them first?), it still hinders the entire “social networking” idea. When I sign onto Facebook my status feed is littered with FrontierVille and Cafe World updates. “But you can ban them” you say? Yes… I know. If I block the game entirely, or the person. But what if I actually play the game, too? Just because I enjoy the game once in a while doesn’t mean I want it to be all I see in my status updates. Is there a way around this? Yes – the obvious one is keep social networking and gaming separate. But for convenience sake let’s take a different approach. Say I have two status feeds on Facebook. How hard would that be? One for game updates, one for legitimate ones. Or even customizable feeds! Oh wait… this sounds familiar…
With the introduction of Google+, we can do exactly what I just stated. Games haven’t infiltrated the beloved motherland yet, but who knows… they might. But Google is already prepared for that. By allowing me to split up my “Streams” by my “Circles,” I can control what I see when I peruse Google+. “But what if the same people in your ‘Family Circle’ play FarmVille” you ask? Well… if all that person posts is FarmVille updates… I’ll take them out of the Family Circle. And if it becomes that big of a problem… I will just remove anyone that plays games. “Ah ha!” You might think… “I have you there.” Why don’t I just remove them on Facebook as well? Well… because everyone plays the games on Facebook. I think I have one Facebook friend that doesn’t… and he’s about one more FarmVille update away from deleting his Facebook account anyway. So why bother at this point? Well… because the options are there. The glory of the internet (unless big media gets it’s way…) is that it’s free, it’s open, and the options are limitless. So try everything. Scorn nothing (till after you try it…). And pick the option that’s best for you.
Quick edit: A friend just linked me to this youtube video… which I think sums a lot of this up very, very well. What is Google+?
A note from the author: I’m not arguing that everyone should be on Google+. I’m not advertising for Google+. I’m simply stating my opinion that where Facebook and Myspace have failed (utterly) Google seems to be getting a pretty good start. And if you want to try it out and don’t have an invite… let me know. Also, yes… I know this was longer than 140 characters… 😛
July 31st, 2011 at 1:08 pm
I don’t play any games, and have blocked them all. I also don’t bother with separate circles, though I’ve noticed a lot of folks seem to really like the Circles option on G+. I mean, I do understand it on an intellectual level, the basic idea of separating people like family/real-life friends/online friends/coworkers, etc. So, for example, if you want to rant about your mean boss you can do so without worrying about one of coworkers seeing it and ratting you out. Or if you want to post your Top Ten Favorite Porno Films list but don’t want your Grandmother to see that, then you can keep it from your family. But that sort of thing just has never been a concern for me. I’m a relative open book, and my general rule for the internet is that if there’s even one person out there whom I don’t want to see something, then I just don’t post it. And I act the same to everyone. So I just have one Circle, “Friends”, and I put everyone in it.
July 31st, 2011 at 1:10 pm
And that definitely works for some people. And I approve of that… highly. But some people like to be able to… moderate their viewers, as it were. Sometimes I like to bitch and complain about specific people, so it’s nice to be able to block those people from seeing what I say… but still have an outlet.
But perhaps that comes from being more comfortable expressing myself online than in other forms. Ah the age of technology…
July 31st, 2011 at 1:18 pm
I’ll toss this in here, rather than edit the post again. I will have a followup coming soon addressing the issues that do exist with Google+. I should have included them (specifically the “real identity” debate going on) but it slipped my mind as I was writing… sorry about that.
July 31st, 2011 at 1:28 pm
I think it’s better with real names, or @ least real-sounding names (like “Jeff Smith” instead of “Djinn Lord X”), although I suppose some alias’ that people use professionally make sense. I’ve got one G+ friend who is a DJ, so he’s signed up as “DJ Moya”, which is the name he uses for his business.
But, either way, G+ just needs to handle it better. I’ve heard of several people getting their profiles deleted without warning. That should not be happening (& it highlights the danger in putting all of your social contacts onto one system). And there should be a verification system, like Twitter uses for celebrities.
July 31st, 2011 at 1:37 pm
I agree for the most part. I signed up with my real name, but changed it in a small stand against their “delete first, ask questions later” policy. So far I haven’t heard anything about my name. Of course… I’m also widely recognizable as “ravnos” online, and in real life (it’s been my nickname among certain groups for friends since 2003).
As far as the verification system like twitter… that has it’s own issues. There was an extensive conversation on G+ here about this topic, as well as numerous news articles. Also, a lenght conversation over on Warren Ellis’s Whitechapel forum.