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How I made my online info diet healthier in April (and, a plea for Google +)
Don't get me wrong - it is a wonderful social media tool. In my opinion, much better-designed and usable than Facebook. (I've made no secret of my feelings about FB here.)
…The problem is, I just don't see much of interest going on over there from a creative standpoint. When G+ came to town, a bunch of us signed up and then I pretty much saw one of two things happening:
- People simply feeding their blogs, tweets, or Facebook posts over to G+
- People posting momentary Twitter-style updates
I've already talked about the first of these - if you're going share the same information I already follow elsewhere, then I can't tune into you on more than one channel. And the second approach makes sense from a human-nature standpoint, but to my eye, it doesn't really make for very interesting G+.
Every time G+ comes up in a crafter conversation, I hear a lot of "I just don't know what to do with it" or "I don't really need another social network." And I think this is simply because we're not using G+ to its full potential.
I agree that if you love Facebook, then you'll probably see too many similarities to really get into G+. But I think that for those of us who love Twitter, G+ gives us a wonderful opportunity for real, substantive discussion, without the character limit that can sometimes hamper us in going very deep on Twitter. For those of us who love blogs, G+ allows for the comment discussion without needing to go through all the work of producing full blog posts.
"Substantive" is another problem - and here's where I might sound like I'm being mean to crafters. That's not my intention at all.
I do think that we crafters have become accustomed to two broad categories of discourse online. On blogs, we're often holding up things we've made and saying "Isn't this cool?" and then people reply with some variation on "Yes, that's really cool!" And in social media spaces, many of our conversations are based around "This is what I'm doing right now." and "I'm doing that too/I understand doing that/I wish I were doing that."
Are these things bad? HECK, NO!!! I love both modes, and participate in them constantly. It's just that G+ affords us a clean slate on which to build a new kind of conversation. If we could stop imposing our habitual online conversations onto it, then imagine what we could be doing over there:
Image by AEJHarrison, via Flickr
- With the G+ Circle system, we can converse with much better flexibility and specificity. On both Twitter and Facebook, we basically have only two communications options: we talk to everyone, or we reply to one person. But on G+, we can share/converse with smaller sub-groups that have more tightly-connected interests. Thanks to Circles, we have an opportunity to be more thoughtful about who we share with and what we share with them. We can have any support communities we want, and we can move beyond broadcast thinking and into a whole new level of connecting in many substantive ways with many people, with less overload.
- With G+'s 100,000 character limit (yes you read that correctly), we have an opportunity to go beyond "I'm standing in line at the post office" and talk about what it really means to be a creative person, how we cultivate and manage our creative lives, and what our work means. We can not only share links to articles on the web that we found meaningful, we can also go beyond "Great post!" and share what we actually thought when we read it.
- Since G+ has embedded live chat (and video Hangouts), we can schedule awesome salon-style discussions of specific topics. We can come together in focused spaces and go really deep in conversation, learning from each other in the process. I love the idea of learning communities, and I think crafters are naturals for those kinds of spaces.
I am not saying, by the way, that G+ should replace either Twitter or Facebook. I'm not saying anyone "should" be on G+. I'm just saying that here's a tool that can bring us a whole new (and to my mind, deeper) social media experience, if we'd only be willing to approach it a little differently. We're creative souls and nice people, and if we could get past using it as yet another promotional/broadcast tool, it seems to me like we could do some wonderful things with G+.
What are your thoughts? Have you used Google+? How is/was the experience for you? What kinds of conversations are missing for you online?