I think there is this perception that Google+ and Facebook are competitors, which may not be strictly accurate.
In the beginning, everyone predicted Facebook social groups running from Facebook's increasingly, "Share everything with everyone" environment to Google's, "Share What you Want With Who you Want" philosophy.
But that didn't really happen. Facebook responded by backing off just enough that it retained users who already have vibrant, well-established, very *social* networks established there.
But this is where my use model for Google+ emerged - and why it ended up being a DIFFERENT environment than Facebook.
Facebook is mostly about reconnecting - it is my daily high-school reunion. It is my living room, where I socialize with closer friends who know me. There are two things that come from this:
One: When I share my tech opinions and writing on Facebook, I get a lot of, "Your ARX Transponder FT2010 running Greek Yogurt with Blueberries on a unchained chinstrapped multicored PGU blah blah blah... stop talking GEEK, Donovan! Post pictures of your family on vacation and what you had for dinner last night! Tell us how much you hate Ohio and miss California."
Two: When I get people who are readers or fellow techies that want to "friend" me on Facebook, I'm a little uncomfortable with giving them a view into what kind of cars I drive, how much I drink at the office party, what kind of activities my wife and child and I pursue in our lives, both professional and leisure. Things I am perfectly comfortable sharing with friends I've know since 2nd grade, I'm less hip about sharing with people I've known solely online for less than a few years. I'm not sure I want them seeing me in my beach-shorts lounging in the pool at the Wynn with a skyscraper margarita and a bad sunburn.
And that is a big difference. I don't do a lot of EXPANSION of my social network on Facebook. There is some of that - but mostly it is reconnecting and keeping in touch. It is my primary social network, no doubt about it - because it is where I am really *myself*. So you might find out some things about me that are TMI, if you follow me on Facebook. You may get sick of me fawning over how awesome my kid is, how nice my house is, how frustrated my job makes me, how awesome the Buffalo-Meat Patty Melt at the Blind Pig in Louisville, Ky tasted.
My friends are actually interested in these things (and I'm interested in what they're doing that would bore you, too). I've never understood people who complain about other people posting endlessly about their families, lives and interests on Facebook. That is what Facebook is all *about*. If you're following people and their constant posts of their kids *annoy* you, you're doing Facebook wrong. You shouldn't be friends with people if you don't care about the great dinner they had in that really nice new Sushi place in Baltimore for their 20th anniversary last night.
On Google+, though - I've got a much smaller circle, mostly of writers, techies, and other industry professionals, academics and "thinkers". There are far fewer of my social *friends* there. I've MET more people on Google+ in a much shorter time. The entire dynamic is radically *different*. Google+ is like Twitter, only with far more interaction, discussion and dialog. There are a lot of brilliant people there I disagree with vocally, and they with me, and a lot of those people seem to enjoy the thrill of the verbal conflict as much as I do. Like Twitter, I have more followers on Google+ than I follow.
I recently wondered if Google+ threatens publishers like TR, because frequently I'll post a story here, link to promote it on Google+, and I'll get a much more focused group of posters responding in the thread on my Google+ stream than here in the forums. The quality of the comments on Google+ is also frequently a little more focused. I think a little more thought goes into making a post on Google+. The poster has more of an incentive to only weigh in if they've really got an opinion. You get less, off-the-cuff responses in a Google+ thread. This may also be simply because most of the readers and followers are also writers, bloggers, journalists and others with some sort of relationship with the industry. There is also a more balanced response, frequently, to issues that might inspire fan-boyism. It seems like Google+ attracts critical thinkers who are more open-minded to different possibilities in discussion threads. It isn't absolutely free of this, but in general, people seem more willing to look at alternate perspectives on technology than "Android rulez, Apple is the Sux0rz!"
And I don't do a lot of posting about how nice the weather is or isn't on Google+. If I share an image on Google+, it is probably a side by side comparison of the Galaxy 7.7, the Kindle DX and the iPad 1 that Tech Republic didn't have space for on my article. You're not going to see pictures of me on my 45th birthday dancing with the Roller Derby team we met at the bar (unless we all had Droid 4s and I thought that said something about Android users being tough, no-nonsense, roughnecks who are ready to throw down at a moment's notice).
Google+ is still emerging. It seems to have a lot more justification to exist than what I've seen of "Instagram", so far (Twitter, with pictures, for aspiring artists, if you're wondering). I go through waves, on Google+, Facebook is a constant. But they're serving radically different purposes in my life, despite their surface similarities.
I think the more important question is can a social community of journalists, bloggers, writers, and academics without really close ties but a lot of common interests grow and flourish, or will it end up eating itself when no one can get along with anyone else for very long?
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