Opinion
Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
Opinion Opinion L.A.

Daum: The siren song of Google+

Google+, which launched a month ago to great fanfare, is so far feeling more like Google nonplussed. Reported to have crossed the 20-million-user mark last weekend, the new social networking site is designed to correct one of Facebook's major drawbacks: the problem of too much information being shared with too many people.

Instead of all social contacts being lumped into one huge group (meaning that your boss and your mother and your best friend from clown college all see the same posts), Google+ lets you compartmentalize people into circles: friends, family, acquaintances and a category called "following," which appears to be for people whose updates you're interested in but who you don't care to have any real life interaction with. You can also create customized circles that narrow your contacts even more: knitting group, people from dog park, people from high school you vaguely remember, people from high school you have no recollection of whatsoever. The possibilities are apparently endless.

There's a video-conferencing feature called "hang out," a group-texting service called Huddle and plenty of other stuff guaranteed to suck even more time out of your day than you thought you had, but so far no one seems to be using much of it. My feed, or "content stream," (yes, I joined up) shows a lot of people saying, in effect, "Is this thing on?"

Sure, there's a sense of excitement in being an early adopter and, in this case, an air of exclusivity that comes from the fact that membership, at this point, is "by invitation only" (though invites aren't too hard to come by). But with so many people's Web browsers bookmarked with so many different online versions of the high school dance (if Facebook is like homecoming, Twitter is like the prom and MySpace is a freshmen ice cream social that somehow turned into a rave), it's no surprise that the question that comes after "Is this thing on?" is often "What am I doing here?"

My first instinct is to say that what we're doing primarily is wasting our time and worse. As my husband wisely points out, there is nothing anyone can post on Facebook that makes you like or respect them more than you did before. Your reputation can only lose luster or remain the same. (Indeed, that is why I have blocked my husband from viewing my Facebook page.)

When it comes to Twitter (which I also initially mocked but ended up joining), I've noticed that the more tweets I see from folks in a short period of time, the more I begin to wonder whether they're receiving the proper psychiatric care. When I see that someone's on MySpace, LinkedIn or Foursquare, I assume he or she is in a band, have some really boring job or are incapable of going anywhere alone, respectively.

I know these are unfair assumptions, and I know I'm doing some big-time generalizing here (though I have yet to hear a compelling argument for the GPS-driven, friend-locating service that is Foursquare, which seems useful primarily if you want to avoid running into someone). In simpler times we judged people according to the crowds they ran with; we now must form opinions based not only on people's "friends" but the platforms on which they choose to collect them.

Google+, on the other hand, is so far largely impervious to such judgments. It's so new that it has no identity and therefore no stigma. I haven't yet posted something to lower my husband's estimation of me because, like 99% of people I know, he's not on it. That will change, of course; users are believed to be increasing at a rate of 1 million a day.

For now, though, I have to admit I kind of like it. There's mystery and potential here, a little like the allure and do-over possibilities of moving to a new town in ninth grade.

Not that I don't still think all of these social networking sites are hijacking our lives. Surely even the most ardent Facebookers won't lie on their deathbeds one day saying, "I should have 'liked' more posts." But given the choice between the homecoming dance and this awkward new dance that is Google+, I'll choose awkwardness.

Besides, right now all anyone's doing is getting drunk in the parking lot. And that can be the best part.

mdaum@latimescolumnists.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • FCC is wisely taking its time on net neutrality action
    FCC is wisely taking its time on net neutrality action

    The Federal Communications Commission has decided to put off action on net neutrality until 2015, drawing protests from those lobbying for strict regulation of Internet service providers. It's tempting to argue that the delay gives the commission time to develop a consensus, but that's a fool's...

  • GOP takes on the FCC over net neutrality
    GOP takes on the FCC over net neutrality

    Many congressional Republicans were outraged when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a new net neutrality proposal this month that was considerably tougher on the cable and telephone companies that provide Internet access than the plan he'd unveiled in April....

  • Just what does this U.N. agency want to do to the Internet?
    Just what does this U.N. agency want to do to the Internet?

    The International Telecommunication Union, an arm of the United Nations that oversees global communications networks, has alarmed tech advocates by debating whether to extend its authority to the Internet. Although it's chilling to think of the U.N. asserting jurisdiction over an area that...

  • An amusing strategy for devising secure passwords that you can remember
    An amusing strategy for devising secure passwords that you can remember

    You’ve forgotten the ubiquitous password you must enter and now try in vain to remember it. It’s not six ones, four ones is too short and the reset password you choose (five twos) is not allowed because you’ve used it before or it’s strength has been deemed to weak.

  • The FCC's new rules for a free and open Internet
    The FCC's new rules for a free and open Internet

    Since the Federal Communications Commission set out to preserve the free and open nature of the Internet more than a decade ago, there's never been a question about the importance of that goal. Instead, the often bitter debate has been over how to achieve it. The latest proposal from FCC...

  • FCC poised to favor Internet users over service providers
    FCC poised to favor Internet users over service providers

    The Federal Communications Commission is expected to adopt a contentious set of rules Thursday that, in order to preserve the freedom of consumers and content providers online, dramatically limits the freedom that Time Warner Cable, AT&T and other Internet service providers have long enjoyed....

  • How Facebook is becoming the Wal-Mart for news
    How Facebook is becoming the Wal-Mart for news

    As reported in the New York Times, Facebook may start directly hosting the content of various news websites, starting with the New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic. What this means for Internet users is that instead of seeing a summary of an article on Facebook, clicking, reading it...

  • Verizon Wireless crosses the privacy line on Web browsing
    Verizon Wireless crosses the privacy line on Web browsing

    Verizon Wireless, the country's most popular mobile phone operator, has been quietly inserting into its customers' Web browsing sessions an identifier unique to each device they use, making it possible for websites and advertising networks to build profiles of individual customers based on...

Comments
Loading