Friday, September 23, 2011
Turbulence in the Clouds
The new features introduced by Facebook do not appear to be enjoying a warm reception by a very large amount of the Facebook subscribers. No statistics are available, but a stroll through the halls of Facebook will reveal the walls littered with protestations, angst, confusion, and anger. Whether all this negative emotion is actually warranted isn't entirely clear. Much, I suspect, is due to a human characteristic to resist change. Particularly when that change effects them (or they perceive that it does) directly. Much is also due to not fully understanding the changes. Details aren't going to be recounted here. However, it's apparent that many people are ready to jump ship and swim to Google+.
So, let's look at a possible impact on our popular culture in general, should that, indeed, happen. As the personal computer has become more ubiquitous in more households, so too has the urge to reach out and connect with people out there in cyberspace. There's been many platforms to achieve this: chats and usenet discussion groups etc. Later, MySpace and then Facebook, Twitter and now Google+. The "language" of Facebook and Twitter has now permeated our collective consciousness to the point we hardly realize it's there. People @people and # their way through their communications. People talk about "unfriending" and "status updates", "walls", and "PM"s as if they've been talking that way their whole lives. Some people even view the private message feature on Facebook as "email", and refer to emailing someone when they actually mean they sent a private message to that person's Facebook account. Now we have Google+. So, are people going to say things like "Johnny is so hot! I really plus one him."? Boggles the mind. But it could happen.
But honestly...the name "Google Plus" just doesn't illicit that warm and fuzzy feeling the other social networking giants, past and present do. "MySpace" sounded so...personal. Friendly. Your own little space on the internet that you could mingle with your chosen friends and be entertained. You could make your page look how you wanted, to reflect your personal tastes. It was your space. Then came Facebook, and the numbers there have burgeoned over the past 7 years at an astonishing rate. Think about it: "face book". Again: personal. Cozy. That's your face...and your book. And it was good. Next, along came Twitter. What a delightful name! Rather puts one in mind of a flock of little birds. Or a gaggle of giggling girls. People don't "post" there, they "tweet". Isn't that precious? And now there's Google Plus.
Ugh. What a boring name! Nothing at all personal about it. No cute factor. And Google is already a verb in popular culture now that means "to search". That gives the impression of "Google Plus" as some sort of social stalking site. If someone says "Google Johnny!" they aren't talking social networking. They are thinking: "Look him up on Google and see if the guy has a criminal record or a fat bank account!" There's much to commend Google+. One would be the "circles" where you can categorize your friends, co-workers, and family. Facebook has now brought out their own version of this, but Google+ was first. Plus Google+ has live webcam chats with several people at once in "huddles". It's reasonably easy to navigate. Clean looking. Almost sterile. And about as personal as a stall in the men's washroom at the Y. Okay, perhaps I'm being harsh. If more of my actual personal friends were there, I might warm up to it more. Meanwhile it simply does not feel like "home" to me. It's not "mine". I am just a "member". Just another tiny cog under the bolt next to the gear at the bottom of the mighty Google Machine.
It's been said that a person's name often shapes their personality and how successful they are in life. I believe there is no reason that wouldn't apply to something as personal as a social networking site....or any product, for that matter. "Google" sounds clever for a search engine. Even okay for a business name. But it's missing the mark on the appeal scale with "Google Plus" for a social networking site's name. Still, it's amusing to ponder how our language is going to change, should the mass exodus from Facebook actually occur. I suppose, as with any other change that comes along on the road of life...we'll get used to it. Maybe whole huddles of us will even get where we plus one it!