8 March 2012

Author Vicky Folksman

Tech and web blog Mashable has posed an interesting challenge to find out just how big a part of our lives social media has become - can you cold turkey for two weeks? Pull the plug completely. No tweets, no statuses, no comments, no blogs. You'd get your news from newspapers, and find out what people were up to by *gasp* dialling their phone numbers. 

Wacky concept perhaps - or maybe it was just how we did things in the 80s and stuff like contacting each other via computers was reserved purely for Matthew Broderick in WarGames. Being social once meant going outdoors and meeting people, not staying in and contacting people from behind a computer screen. Social networking seems to have become the all new anti-social behaviour, and Google+ is our new Next Big Thing.

Strangely, the main celebrity pusher of Google+ appears to be Tom Anderson (Wiki). Yes, that's Mr MySpace Tom Anderson himself. His profile has the same 'thummbies up' picture he always had, he claims that he is not being paid by Google and judging by his 1,406,198 friends (at time of writing), it would seem that quite a lot of people are actually using Google+. 

However, if you then consider that I am one of those friends, and the only reason I have a G+ account is because it got automatically 'created' one day when I clicked on a link saying a friend of mine was on there, who probably clicked a link saying *their* friend was on there, you have to wonder, how many people on that friends list are ghost friends or friends by proxy.

To be fair, despite the fact that respected media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal recently referred to Google+ as a 'ghost town' friends of mine who do use G+, see it as a useful resource tool rather than a chatting outlet and they find that it's free of pesky 'Farmville' requests and the like. An apt analogy under the circumstances could be that Google+ has a 'cult' following at the moment, and much like The X-Files, could see whole droves of people jumping on the bandwagon at some point in the middle of season 3. This will in turn drive the interactive and more commercial/ad-driven aspects of Google+ that Facebook adopts more readily now, but which was practically non-existent back in 2007 before they collected all that delicious data on us.

Also, consider the fact that Google is tailoring its search engine to ensure that brands or people with Google+ pages come up first in searches. Combine this with the fact that Google is the Internet's biggest search engine (quick test: anyone out there say "Let me just Bing that…") and you have a very enticing method of drawing in brands and notable people initially based on the fact that they'll have built-in Google search engine optimisation, thus forcing consumers to follow suit in order to keep up to date. But how much is too much and do we really have time to update so many pages?

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkdIn, Tumblr, Flickr, Soundcloud, Wordpress, to name but a few of the most popular ones - and Google+ expects to compete, even be a market leader, despite the cautionary tales of the likes of Friendster, LiveJournal and most recently, MySpace, ringing in its ears. No wonder offices lose hours of work a day when there's so much socialising to do from your desk. Perhaps Zynga ought to design 'Officeville' where in order to level up you need to finish that report, check that spreadsheet, send those emails and file that paperwork.

With all the negative reactions to Facebook's new 'Timeline' concept, we may be seeing Google+ defectors sooner rather than later. Personally, I like Timeline, and agree with PRNewser that what brands like Coca Cola have done with its potential is great, but from the posts I've read from friends, I'm in the minority. Perhaps come December 2012, we'll find out if the projected 400m users a recent Google+ report suggests they will have, are all real or merely figments of an under-active social network's imagination.