Many moms live on social media. We tweet, we update Facebook compulsively, we read endless blogs. Social media connections break up the monotony of a SAHM’s days, and keep all us parents connected with like-minded others. Our online connections can become as important as our face-to-face friendships.
So of course when I heard Google was launching a new social media service, I wanted to try it.
Google is trying out a thing they’re calling Google+. Let’s be clear: it’s a Facebook clone. Its main selling point, as xkcd brilliantly pointed out this morning, might as well be simply that it’s not Facebook.
Google+ is in early test drive mode right now, so you can’t just sign on and play with it unless you happen to get an invite. You can leave your email address and they’ll tell you when it’s ready for prime time. Hot tip: they will probably tell you whether or not you put your name on their waitlist, because this toy only works if everyone plays.
I did get to play with it, and it’s actually extremely cool. It does almost everything I want a social networking site to do, and does it in a simple, intuitive way.
Google’s sales pitch is that they’re bending over backwards to preserve users’ privacy, something Facebook has gotten into trouble over many times. I never put anything private on Facebook, so I don’t really care that they’re awful about privacy. I don’t know if I believe Google+ will be better on that front.
Here’s what I like about it: it’s easy. The user interface is incredibly simple. The way you form groups (or ‘circles’ as they’re calling them) is straightforward. You can post things to just one group. So, for example, I can post updates about the party I was at last night to my friends, and not worry about my mother-in-law reading them. Likewise I can wish my mother-in-law a happy birthday without cluttering up my boss’s stream. It’s really easy to create new groups, add and remove people to them, and switch between views of your whole stream or just one circle.
As a mom, I wear a lot of hats, so I really appreciate this feature. I can check out what my colleagues are doing while I’m working, keep up with gossip from my friends on a break, and post knowing only my target audience will see what I said. Love it. It strikes me like a mash-up of Facebook and Livejournal.
Facebook has some functionality like this. I just learned that now by investigating. It took me a few minutes to find, but it’s there. It’s just not as front-and-center or simple as the Google+ set-up. Why didn’t I know Facebook had this feature? Because I hate Facebook and always have. My hatred, it’s totally irrational. It’s like disliking orange shirts or preferring Apple to Microsoft. I’m just not a Facebook fan. I’m like the stick figure in the xkcd strip, made happy by something that does what Facebook does but isn’t Facebook.
So I like Google+ a lot. It’s not crowded with apps and extra features. At least not yet. Just a clear, simple way to keep in touch with everyone in your social network, and to keep those networks somewhat separated.
Sadly, I’m not expecting to use it long. Google+ is elegant, but as I said at the beginning, it only works if everyone uses it. And everyone is already using something else. We’re all on Facebook. We’re on Twitter. We’re going to need something more than a pretty UI and easily filtered groups to make us all switch to Google+. I suspect it will fare about as well as Google Wave or Google Buzz. Which is a shame, because unlike those two inscrutable mishaps, this one has some good stuff going on.
Have you tried Google+? Are you planning to use it? What do you think of it?
Photo: Ed Yourdon
Whatever the platform, be sure to follow these Social Media Rules for Parents!