So Google+ has been creating a bit of news (I wanted to say “buzz” or “waves” but thought that would be corny with their connection to Google) over the past two weeks with Google’s entry into the “social network” genre. I have to admit that at first I had absolutely no interest in checking it out (maybe this was because of my previous experience with “Google Wave” and feeling like it was another lame attempt by Google) and in fact I posted on one of my Facebook friend’s status that I had no interest. Then the very next day another one of my friends said something about it and had an invite and perhaps because I was in an experimental mood, I decided to post that I was interested. I got my invite and checked it out and was instantly hooked. Google+ filled in the gaps that I felt Facebook had.
But enough about how I got here. I want to share why I prefer Google+ over Facebook:
Circles are the way you categorize the people you connect with. Instead of “friending” them you add them to your circles. The best part about this is you can create the circle categories and add the people to them all on one screen by just dragging and dropping. In Facebook you could create ‘lists” to manage your friends but this was a bit of a cumbersome process. In Google+ you can easily construct your social relationships and have easily manageable groups. For instance I have one person under my “Friend” circle but I also have him in my “Fantasy Football” circle (which will come in to play with one of the other reasons). The best part about this is you control how you relate to people (and they don’t know what “circles” they are put into…they just know that you have them in your “circles”) unlike Facebook where everyone is a “Friend” and lets face it not everyone who is your “Friend” on Facebook is really a “Friend”
2. Stream Sorting
Okay, so one of the issues I have with Facebook is the fact that in order to “sort” my news feed I have to create a list. I know this really isn’t that big of a deal, but since this feature was added on after I already had 500+ friends it was a bit cumbersome to sort though everyone and get people into the “lists”….with Google+ because when you add people you add them into circles it is done right away. This means when I just want to quickly filter through the noise of posts to see a certain group of people’s posts all I have to do is click on that circle and instantly their posts come up. As a side note Google+ does a better job of prominently displaying this function while Facebook has it somewhat hidden in the drop down menu under “most recent” which means you also have to make sure you have the list created.
3. Selective Posting
I have many friends from many different social spheres and sometimes I want to share stuff that really is only interesting to a certain section of my friends and not others. This causes some problems: (1) These “friends” become disinterested because they see my posts which don’t interest them at all and this causes them to gloss over the things I post that might interest them (2) Sometimes when I am at a conference I like to post things that are specific to an audience and end up posting quite a bit leading to “wall” spam for some of my friends (3) Lets face it sometimes things you want to share about and laugh with one group of friends some other friends would find annoying or they may not understand that groups humor. Well Google+ solves this by your ability to choose with ease who can see your post. You can choose “individuals”, certain “circles”, “extended circles”-which means friends of those people in the circle could see it too, or “public.” Now in reality this can be done in Facebook too, but it is 2 or 4 clicks plus sometimes typing in order for it to happen, with Google+ it is all integrated into the area where you “share.”
Another reason why this is great is it makes Facebook “messages” obsolete. In Google+ you can do this from the same place you share everything. In order to do it you just select that one person either within the post by typing @name or in the place where you select circles by typing in their name. This makes it so that post can only be viewed by that one person (make sure you don’t have any circles in that box too) and you two can have a conversation on that post with only whoever is included in that post seeing it.
***The one drawback to this is that the person could “share” it and post it publicly. If you choose “share” on something that was originally shared on a limited basis…Google reminds you “This post was originally shared with a limited audience – remember to be thoughtful about who you share it with.” but then you can share it. So basically folks don’t go declaring your undying love for someone in your circle privately that might not have the same feelings because they might make you social fodder for laughter.***
*Update: 7/16* - I realized today that you can also set any “post” with options like not allowing it to be “reshared”…this would obviously solve the issue if you don’t want something going beyond your circle you just make sure to set that it can’t be reshared.
4. Sharing with those outside of the “network”
Google+ allows you to add email addresses to your “circles” this means that people who aren’t on the network and possibly aren’t interested in the network can still get what you share if you choose. I will give you an example: my mother will never join a social network but often times I share pictures of my boys that I would like her to be able to see. Currently my option is to post it to Facebook in my usual social way and then separately email it to my mother. Well with Google+ I can add my mother’s email to my “Family” circle and then if I want to share a picture socially I just select my “Family” circle along with my Public and make sure I have the box checked to share with “emails” within the circle and my mother gets the picture in the post I shared too.
This has some advantages in ministry too where people in your church may not join social networks but do have email…if you have a post that you want to go out to your church you could just create a circle and post away.
Now there are somethings I wish it had:
1. Hashtag integration
I wish Google+ somehow integrated hashtags like twitter where I could easily search for say “#umc” and see any posts out in public, my extended circles, or circles that integrated that hashtag. Basically this would combine what I love best about Twitter and make Google+ my one stop social network.
2. A way to connect to Facebook that was easy
Lets face it: Facebook has 750 million users and is known as the “network” and I wish I could navigate over to this network while maintaining a presence there while I wait for Google+ to fully takeoff and have more of my current connections from Facebook. I know this can be done, but from what I read it takes a cumbersome process and only posts 44 words so it isn’t a good integration. I understand Google+ is in beta but having this would be nice.
Now there are some other cool things about Google+ like “hangouts” where you can post that you are “hanging out” and people in your circles or who have you in their circles can join you in a group chat (with voice and video) with up to 10 users. I am not much into the video chat part of the internet yet, but I can see how this would be an a great function for some users. Facebook currently only allows 1 on 1 video chat for its users and that was just implemented when Google+ launched. “Sparks” is also cool in that I can check a topic and see stories on it that have been posted around the net and share them quickly, but I wish this implemented the “hashtag” function within Google+ because then I would have listed it as reason #5.
Well that is it. I have stated to my Facebook friends that I am leaving Facebook in roughly 27 days which means I am committed to this Google+ thing and I will either fly with it or sink with it. If others have tastes like mine it will fly.