The Personal Is Not the Political Is Not the Professional

At least, not in my life and, my best guess, not in yours.  Wherein the reason why, up until a week ago, I had let Facebook go and Twitter with it.  I don’t really want to inflict my political views or professional concerns on all my nieces and nephews, and I don’t really want to inflict even the most adorable pictures of my grandniece on all my professor friends.  I don’t even want to inflict my discussions on national security issues on my former students for whom FB is an easy way to stay in touch with former professors.  Facebook is frustrating if you don’t believe in commingling all parts of your personal and professional life.  It reached the point where I stopped posting at all for a couple of years.

Finally I concluded that the world had moved beyond blogging to the world at large and that I needed to interact with several communities in the ways they used, and that meant moving back to Facebook and Twitter.  So a few weeks ago I created a separate FB account that was supposed to be my professional versus personal account – but it’s really annoying to have to log in and out of FB to move between accounts, and it seemed like apps were getting confused as between the two accounts on the same computer (I still haven’t managed to work out the token issues to get Twitter linked to the right FB account).  While on vacation, I just gave in to the inevitable and started posting things to FB again.

My initial reaction to Google+ was probably about the same as yours – please, not another FB wanna-be.  But I read this account of it yesterday, and – true, great minds think alike, but the Big G is in a position to do something about it:

Instead of treating all of your friends as equals, Google lets you put them into different groups, called circles, such as “friends”, “acquaintances”, “family”, “sports fans”, and so on. These circles represent a powerful innovation. They allow us to send more personal updates just to our closest friends instead of forcing us to share with all of our hundreds of acquaintances. This simple task is not easy to do within Facebook. Furthermore, Google+ allows us to chop up our incoming news stream based on what circle they are coming from, so that we can focus on just the updates from our family or just the updates from our coworkers.

The Google+ circles concept is powerful and easy to use. It represents the defining, foundational difference between Google´s and Facebook´s vision for social networking. If this new model takes off with users, then Facebook will find itself in the uncomfortable position of having to replicate these features within its own platform. Unfortunately for Facebook, moving to this new paradigm will not be possible overnight. We are talking about a major architectural overhaul (update: I mean major as in the backend and more importantly the UI. It will probably be hard for Facebook to integrate this model into their UI in a way that is intuitive and widely adopted by users). In the meantime, Google will have a chance to attract significant numbers of users and influence.

I haven’t been invited to Google+, so I can’t say whether it works as advertised.  But the diagnosis certainly fits my problem with FB, so I have high hopes.

Update: Thanks to a helpful reader, I have been invited to G+, and I am just starting to try it out.  I’ll keep you posted.