The internet has been abuzz all this week about Google+, Google’s interpretation of social networking that is currently limited through invitation only. According to The New York Times, the social media platform has a layout very similiar to Facebook but with one very striking difference. Google+ is intended for sharing information, links, and media with much smaller groups of people.
Unlike Facebook that blasts posts into a feed that everyone can see, Google+ allows users to create “circles” that are in no way based on approved “friending.” The Times observes:
Instead of making friends, users create groups of other users — “Circles,” in Google lingo. These people don’t need to approve the move, but they don’t grant you any special access to them just because you’ve put them in your Best Friends Forever circle. They can even ignore you without you knowing it. Likewise, putting several people into a circle doesn’t connect them to one another the way a Facebook group does. It’s more like a Facebook list. The circle is for your convenience only, so you can share things with all of them, or see their own updates, as a group.
This approach eliminates the awkward lingering of friend requests from aunts and uncles as you comb through your wall for anything that might change their memory of you, sweet and wholesome, at the family picnic some years back. Without getting into the whole “special access” issue, users can still share information without necessarily seeing any personal content. Considering that your college-aged children can also “ignore” you it they like, you can also place them in your “circle” without feeling like you’re encroaching on their new grownup life.
Those features aside, this component of Google+ stood out as perhaps the most family conscious:
…when posting to your Stream, the page of your posts which resembles a Facebook wall, Google+ encourages you to carefully choose which Circles and individuals the posts are shared with. On Facebook, you can similarly fine-tune who does and doesn’t see each of your status updates — click Facebook’s lock icon below the status input box, and choose Customize to enter friends, networks, and lists to add or block. But it’s complicated on Facebook. Google+ puts the sharing options in your face, to encourage you to think actively about sharing some things with one circle of people, some with others.
Sounds great when tailoring your vacation photo album for a specific “circle,” rather than all of Facebook. Trying to keep straight who can see what in a time in which social media has become a hub for professional pursuits, socializing, and keeping in touch family has proved to be a trying endeavor. Despite Facebook’s dance with privacy settings, many people negotiate what content goes tagged and untagged based on who will see it. By keeping groups separated, but nevertheless connected with media and content, Google+ may be a simpler alternative to wondering if your grandmother can decipher your status updates.