Google+ makes my world smaller
Four months ago, I embarked on a grand adventure. I boarded train Google+ and departed from station RSS. I left behind Feedly and my list of carefully curated subscriptions. Google Reader's demise set this new travel plan into motion. The search and information giant's social network would be my major -- really only -- source of news. Hey, other people rely on Twitter! I put Plus first.
I live the Google lifestyle, as many of us do everyday, but more than most people, by using Androids and Chromebook Pixel as my computing devices. But strange thing happened during my travels. Rather than find a broad, eclectic group of people, I increasingly encountered Google fanboys, which I am not. Rather than expand my horizons, Google+ shrinks them.
Google+ has changed much since I joined two summers ago. The network is larger (close to 400 million active monthly users) and more people are members than realize because of Google Account (If you don't use Plus, have a look -- you may be surprised to find yourself joined but idle). I also see the social network as increasingly less diverse, although participation in more Communities might remedy some of that.
Ten days ago, Ian Betteridge made the observation that had brewed in my brain but didn't percolate into thoughtful realization: "One thing that is impossible not to notice on Google+: There's a very distinct skew towards big Google fans in commenting. It doesn't matter which tech site's page you look at, the (in my view, tedious) 'fanboy' mentality is hotter here than on any other social network".
Yes! That's it! My recent experience with the network's changing character: The "Plus" is mostly about Google. I responded: "Obsession here with new rumored products like Nexus 5 reveals just how pervasive is fanboyism". Five days later, the search and information giant enhanced the service's photo features. Posted responses -- way too many of them -- wrinkled my knickers. I posted: "Ian Betteridge is right about Plus feeling more and more like a Google fanboy club. That's my clear takeaway to today's Google Plus update news. Can Plusers gush any louder and ignore everything else more?"
Perhaps I need to broaden my Circles. But I think there is simpler, more obvious conclusion: Plus attracts Google geeks -- and why not? The social network tightly ties to other major Google products and services and attracts users living the created lifestyle. I was naive not expecting the social network to tip towards fanboys rather than expand beyond them.
Most of the news I see or majority of the comments I get are about Google. Look for shared public posts about much of anything else than Google and what do you see? If I or others post about, say, Apple or Microsoft there is little response or, when there is comments tend to be negative to these competitors while praising most things Google.
My Plus experiment is a minus. I am now in process of a major pullback from Google+. I won't leave the network but will dramatically increase participation in others and expand from where I get news. My experiment started with a question hypothesis: Can a social network be the major source of news? For me, the answer is "No" with respect to Google+, mainly because of the fanboy invasion.
I'm not ready to return to Feedly or even use Flipboard. I will monitor Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter and other social networks, watching the feeds there for news. Being a journalist, social media as an alternative or replacement for finding general breaking news is an important exploration. But rather than ride the one train, I now figuratively purchase tickets for others.
I am not a Google fanboy, and I don't seek a community that reinforces what I might already believe. I want to make my world bigger. Perhaps that's too much to ask of any social network -- most certainly Google+.