When facebook arrived and ousted myspace, friendster, and other, lesser social networking platforms, I thought it was pretty much the end-all be-all of social networking platforms. The streamlined design, its all-inclusive functions, and its base of over 750 million worldwide users add up to a pretty powerful social networking site. Valued at over $9 billion dollars, facebook seemed poised to remain on top forever.
And then there was Google+. I have to admit, I’m a little bit confused. What, exactly, does Google+ offer that facebook doesn’t? (beyond the ability to direct its advertising in an almost frighteningly direct way, since Google can now peer into your email, searches, and social networking) I am not promoting facebook over Google+, necessarily, especially since I am still a fledgling Google+ user and don’t yet know of everything it has to offer. But the fact that Google+ itself offers an opportunity to sync with your facebook account gives me pause. Granted, it could just be a way for the company to wean its users away from facebook. But it also seems likely that the sync is Google’s way of tacitly acknowledging that it is not a replacement for facebook. If that is the case, then what is the role of Google+ in our lives?
I have all the same friends on facebook (many more, in fact) as I do on Google+. So if the messages I write on Google+ go to the same people who are my facebook friends, what is the point of double-posting my statuses, which are not that brilliant or interesting in the first place? On the other hand, people are making the jump to Google+, if only because they, like me, are curious. Will Google+ be able to take any user share from facebook permanently, or will there always be a strange see-sawing parallelism between the two internet giants?
Finally, I cringe when I read Google’s welcome message.
“The Google+ Project makes sharing on the web feel like sharing in real life”
First of all, that doesn’t really make sense. What counts as “real life”? I am definitely living a real life as I sit at my computer and type in a status update. Do they limit “real life” to sharing in person, face-to-face? If so, what about sharing over the phone? Secondly, the phrase just serves to remind us what social networking really is: a pale shadow of “real life”, a place where we can allow a yearly “happy birthday” post take the place of real and meaningful interaction.