Of Google-Plus And Circle Jerks

I remember Myspace.

We speak of it now like it died in a war, but it’s actually still out there if you care to gaze upon it. It was and remains the social media equivalent of a GeoCities website: everything is blink tags and glitter fonts, tropical vomit and chrome skulls. Like Metallica rode in on a pack of My Little Ponies and got thrown into a wood chipper, and the chipper sprayed the guts up onto our screens.

Then? Facebook came around. Facebook was all clean lines and blue cubicles. Though it came from the realm of the collegiate, it appeared as the buttoned-up office worker of the social media work, tsk-tsk-tsking on all the blown-out margins and half-naked goblins of Myspace.

And for a while, Facebook held it all together. But before long, chaos crept in at the edges. Eroded those clean blue margins. Pissed on the cubicle walls. Next thing you knew, it was all HELP ME KILL THIS FILIPINO BOOKIE IN MAFIA WARS and DALE NEEDS HELP INSEMINATING DONKEYS IN FARMVILLE and people were tagging you with photos you weren’t even in (“Is that a cat throwing up on a parakeet?”) and people could add you to groups you didn’t sign up for (“Why am I suddenly getting email from “The Sparkly Bieberwhores?”). It never fell into the Las Vegas ayahuasca dream-vomit of Myspace, but the madness remained, endemic to a once-clean system.

And now, Google+ (or Google-Plus or G+ or GP or GooPloo or Guh-Pluh or whatever it is we’ll eventually call it) is here, once more stepping into the arena as the master of order, as the scion of sanity, clean and white and elegant as an Apple store.

I am here to say: Lo, I am underwhelmed.

And more than a little confused.

Both fairly default states for me, to tell the truth, so this isn’t all that new. Even still, my experiences with The Googlecrucians has been surprisingly gutless and without mirth. I figure, hell, let’s talk about it.

Though, quick caveats: first, this is not a review. I’ve seriously hardly used this thing. Don’t trust me to tell you what to think about it — go splash around in the Googley Waters thine ownself.

Second, if you like it? Then I am happy for you. I may like it too one day. Soon, even. In fact, if you would be so kind as to drop into the comments and say why you like it and how you use it, I would reward you mightily. And by “reward you,” I mean, I’ll give you a wink and a thumbs-up and a high-five and that shall be your glorious prize. Get excited.

It’s Like Facebook, Only Less So!

When “new” social media hits, to me it should feel like something new. Not merely an improvement but rather, a whole muhfuckin’ redesign. Facebook wasn’t like Myspace. It had that sense that I was dipping my toes in the lifestreams of others rather than actively hopping over to your “page” where you, I dunno, talked about how much you love the goddamn Thundercats or auto-play music that sets fire to my ears. Then Twitter came out of left-field and it dialed down complexity and dialed up that frequency to the point where it became this constant signal of conversation ever burbling in the background, and all you had to do was tune the knob to make it louder, or clearer, or more meaningful.

Twitter encouraged brevity. It embraced simplicity.

Now, Google-Double-Plus-Good has hit and it’s less a redesign and more a re-skin. In the MMO-gaming space you’d say, “it’s not a World-of-Warcraft killer so much as it is a clone.” The feeling I get from people is that “It’s like Facebook, but without all that… Facebook all up in your face!” Which is fine. Certainly Facebook has earned the ire of many for its constant application messages and its privacy settings. And Gee+ has thrown in one of the great things from Twitter: the loss of enforced reciprocality. I follow you. You don’t need to follow me. Huzzah. It’s a nice touch.

Even still, this horse is still a horse. When Twitter came around, the Internet didn’t show me a horse. It showed me a chimera shooting lasers from its eyes and pooping Faberge eggs. It was like, “Whoa, I have never seen this before.” When I logged onto Googolplex, I just saw another horse. Painted white, admittedly, and maybe given a nice currying, but still a horse.

This isn’t a home run. It’s a bunt. That can’t be enough, can it? To get millions to switch?

As Intuitive As Putting Together Ikea Furniture

Goddamn Allen wrenches.

To Hell with your Sknarng coffee table or your Fnorbsbjar S&M spinfuck chair, Ikea.

Anyway. What was I saying? Right.

The first thing that happens when I get into Googley-Poo is that it tells me that people have added me to circles even though I’d never before been on the service (leading me to believe that the site is a psychic social media version of SkyNet), and yet when I look at my list of who had me in circles, some of those people weren’t there. Further, I’m then asked to delineate people into circles of my own. Friends or acquaintances, which seems arbitrary, cruel, and actually not all that meaningful. (It’s not until later that I realize I can do whatever the fuck I want with circles, but initially, that’s not all that clear.) Why not just force me to pick enemies? My initial plan was to separate people into Byzantine Masonic Circles (“You have taken the trials and can join the 35th Echelon Of The Grandmaster Of Fez-Wearing Hula-Hoopery“) but I eventually discover that nobody can actually see the awesome circle names you’ve used to classify them.

Then I’m supposed to figure out exactly how circles work in terms of both broadcasting signal and receiving it from others. I grok the reception: I can say, “I only want to see posts from people in my Those Marked For Eradication By Doom-Bots circle.” But the broadcasting portion is a little weirder. A circle indicates a group — like, if I create a circle and we’re all in it, we should all be, I dunno, talking to one another. A circle of jerks, if you will. (And I do wonder how long it’ll be before “Circle Jerk” enters the G+ parlance.) But that’s not quite the case. This dude’s blog post takes a look at How Circles Work, but what I read in his blog is not necessarily how I understood it upon entering the circle. Even still, I’m not sure who I’m even talking to. Or yelling at. Or who can talk to me.

Or where my pants went.

Speaking Of Pantslessness

No, I do not want to hangout with you on a webcam. Or, more specifically, you don’t want to hang out with me on webcam. Listen, in the great Venn diagram of my computing life, the circle of “Am Using The Internet” and the circle of “Am Shirtless And Covered In Baby Puke And Dorito Pollen” have a near perfect overlap. I’m also afraid that if I somehow turn on my webcam, the first thing I’m going to see is someone masturbating at me. Which is why I am prepared instead to masturbate at somebody. Fight fire with fire. Fight Onanism with Onanism. I have a very clear “first strike” policy on webcam jerkoffery. Once again, the need for “Circle Jerk” to enter the Goo-Plus parlance is dire. Dire.

What The Who Now Is A Spark?

Then there’s something called a spark? Which is really just an chosen topic that accumulates random links about my chosen topic? This feels a little “stapled on.” Like, does this relate at all to my friends? Er? Circles? Er, what’s the term? Circlemates? Google-Pals? Plus-Buddies? (Again: Circle Jerks. I’m just saying. Let us all adopt this new lingo.) Who filters Sparks? Isn’t the power of social media the ability to have word-of-mouth fuel your filtering abilities? Has Google hired a guy just to figure out what Sparks I should like? What’s happening? What are all these flashing lights? Why am I being anally probed?

The Department Of Redundancy Department

I already have Twitter and Facebook. The former, I’m very happy with. The latter, I could mostly give a shit about but I’ve got tons of family and classmates there. So, I do an update to Twitter and/or Facebook, I now have, what, a third social media axis to choose from? And I’m going to do what? Say the same thing there that I said everywhere else? That’s fine, I guess, but the thought of having to track posts and replies across three axes (not to mention the blog or Goodreads or Tumblr or other blogs or reality) just makes me want to take a goddamn nap.

Even worse, Googly-Eyes over there wants me to get all handsy with organizing my social existence. You know what sounds excruciating? Organizing my social existence. Putting everybody in little boxes. Arranging people like pewter figurines in their little drawers and cubby-holes. Are you a friend? Or a worker? What if you’re a worker-friend? What if you’re part of my Beekeeping Club but you might also inadvertently find interest in my posts about Coffee Beans Run Through The Intestinal Tract Of Sugar Gliders? I already have enough busy-work in my life — balancing checkbooks, washing dishes, obsessively going over my “locks of hair stolen from all the red-headed hookers I’ve murdered.” Do I really want to micro-manage my online cohorts? Is micro-managing stuff ever fun (except for obsessives)?

As a writer, is this just another place for writer wankery? Don’t I do that enough? (Answer: duh, yes.)

I’m reaching a state of social media ennui. Tedium with such pablum.

The whole thing feels a little bit redundant.

A Mote Of Promise In SkyNet’s Eye

That’s not to say you won’t enjoy Fraggle Rock Google Plus. You very well might. As a Facebook replacement, it’s aces, I suppose. (Though I’m a bit puzzled by those who are apeshit gonzo about OMG GEE PLUS IS A BILLION TIMES BETTER THAN FACEBOOK, which to me is like saying, OMG FRUITY PEBBLES IS A BILLION TIMES BETTER THAN FROOT LOOPS.) Further, when the digital winds blow right I occasionally catch the briny scent of sheer potential in the service, a potential that maybe harkens back to what Google wanted with services like Buzz and Wave.

For now, I can’t see myself hanging out too much at the Gee-Willikers Gee-Whiz Gee-Plus Zero-G G-Unit G-Love G Money — I occasionally pull back the tent flap and see if anything good is going on, but so far, it’s mostly just a bunch of carnies sitting around smoking cigarettes and looking a little bored. That said, if you can find me on there, feel free. Entrap me in one of your jerking circles.

Otherwise I shall remain firmly ensconced in the Twitters, where I am allowed to stand on a soapbox, yell all kinds of crap into the air, and you can decide if it’s worth hearing.

As always: YMMV, IMHO, etc.

In other news: get off my lawn, you damn kids. With your Google+. And your hair. And your clothes.