Google+ feels like a new beginning, and maybe I needed that

Have you ever considered breaking up with Facebook?

I did once, and returned months later with a new profile and the best of intentions – to use Facebook to keep up with family and friends. I didn’t want to play games or take quizzes, or spend too much time posting photo albums and updates. I downloaded the iPhone app so I could quickly check my news feed to see photos of a new baby or updates from a sister on her new job. I know – it’s lazy. I wanted Facebook to be my crutch, to allow me to know how everyone’s doing without having to call or put forth actual effort.

You need what?

Almost immediately, my status with Facebook became “It’s Complicated.” I found it difficult to control what I saw – and what others saw – in Facebook. I couldn’t keep up with the 10 people in my closest circles without wading through Farmville updates and other distractions. I have some friends who update constantly, and others who don’t. I have faraway family whose updates I often miss because they get buried. My newsfeed became a dizzying amalgam of Twitter, Tumblr, Farmville and mass updates.

I don’t know what it means when a friend needs love potions to breed special piglets.

I don’t understand the incomplete, impersonal headlines that get scraped from various integrated sites. Being a patient person, I will scroll through the digital detritus in hopes of finding something meaningful – like a photo of my friend’s 3-week-old.

The social networking site Google+ showed up at the perfect time for me, as I was contemplating yet another Facebook renovation. Using the service reminds me of the “work smarter, not harder” adage, and I hope I’m able to use the functionality of Google+ to accomplish what I was never able to with Facebook.

With Google+, contacts are organized into circles – Friends, Family, Acquaintances and Following – which allows you to customize and control the quantity of information those contacts receive. So a person who probably doesn’t care about your trip to Hermann Park won’t have to see it, but they’ll be included on major updates about job changes or other milestones.

And if I want to see what my family’s up to, I can click on the “Family” stream to view only their updates. Some have struggled with the “Why?” question when it comes to adding yet another social media tool to the crowded scene. For me, circles is why.

Because there’s a key dimension of human interaction that Facebook was never able to fully accommodate: what we choose to share depends on the person. With Google+, I’m not broadcasting the same message to everyone, regardless of their relationship with me. Some early adopters think it’s a little unfriendly, that you can drop people into circles and they won’t know which stream they’re getting. I view it as a step toward more sophisticated communications, closer to the way we actually interact in real life.

What I tell my mom isn’t what I tell my sister or my best friend from college. And I think my mom totally gets that and doesn’t think it’s unfair or unfriendly.

And speaking of that, I need to call her.

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Filed under Family, Social networking, Technology

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