Posts Tagged ‘ Google Plus ’

Goodbye Facebook Part 2: Life After Facebook

Four months ago I quit Facebook.

I was nervous, filled with trepidation about how my friendships would proceed next. My quitting Facebook was not an impulse decision. I was finally taking my friendships back, showing my friends that I was tired of the broadcast environment and that I wanted to spend more time with them on a far more personal level. What happened next?

Several friends immediately contacted me to setup lunch plans, make sure I had their contact information and generally show their support and encouragement for my decision. Many agreed with me but weren’t ready to close their own account. One wrote me in angry protest.

My blog post about quitting Facebook went semi-viral. My biggest post to date, it still rakes in regular traffic here. The web response was unreal, more than 80,000 hits in a 24 hour time period. As a nominal blogger, these numbers are huge to me. I couldn’t keep up with the comments here on the blog, Google Plus, reddit and Hacker News. As a writer, it’s hugely flattering to find your words carried meaning for others. For everyone who read my first post, thank you.

I will admit, I feel slightly cut off now that I’ve stepped away from receiving the broadcasts of every small detail of the daily lives of my 200 or so closest friends and family. People truly do have to take an extra step to loop me in to their lives. What’s been impressive are the number of people that take that extra step. I’m learning, quite clearly, who truly values my input.

Having lunch with a friend, she suddenly remembered news that she’d already shared online. “Oh yes! You’re not on Facebook, let me tell you about….” But you know what? I loved hearing it from her personally rather than reading a post. It was far more fun, more personal to hear the story over a shared meal at our favorite restaurant. Being able to see the happy glow in her eyes, share laughter and smiles and give her a hug at the end far outweighed reading smaller updates on a daily level.

My circles have grown much smaller, but infinitely tighter. On the flip side, losing all that extra “noise” in the background has helped me focus on deepening the actual relationships I share with them. I’ve withdrawn from my circle of friends somewhat, but the individual interactions are richer and deeper. Gone are the daily hellos, traded in for afternoons at the beach, lunches at our favorite restaurants, emailed photos when a friend stumbles on to something that reminds them of me.

I have one friend in particular that was upset I left Facebook. She felt I’d traded Facebook for another social network. She didn’t realize that I use them for different purposes and I wasn’t swapping one for another. She seemed angry and after one awkward dinner, we haven’t spoken, texted or emailed since.

I was deeply saddened that she’d let my leaving Facebook come between us. Then I realized something very important: We’d been drifting apart for several years now. The only thing really holding us together was the superficial ties on Facebook. I think, rather than keeping the friendship afloat, Facebook prolonged the inevitable death throes of two people moving in different directions. Facebook was a tool to help falsely maintain an ending friendship. We’d simply grown too far apart.

I want my interactions with my friends to be honest and real. I don’t want to maintain a friend list because “I should”. I want the people who keep me around to do so because they like and value my company and opinion. I’m not going to lie, I still miss seeing a lot of those status updates and photos. But I also know that each time someone calls, emails or texts me – it’s because they wanted to share that specific moment with me.

And, for the first time in 10 years I did not call my friend and sing to her on her birthday. Sometimes, it’s best to just quietly slip away.

The Power of Social Search: Bing or Google?

I’m a Google Girl, I happen to enjoy all things Google. I almost exclusively use Google for searches, but I know that technology changes and it’s a good idea to challenge your conceptions from time to time. Reading about Bing’s integration with Facebook, I decided to give a Bing a try.

*Note I did this little experiment about 2 months ago, before I closed my Facebook account.

My experiment: I linked Bing to Facebook and searched “andromeda” in both search engines.

First, Bing made me complete a captcha! Shut. The. Front. Door.

Once completed, I was able to retrieve my search results. The Facebook plugin put a ticker on the right side of my screen. It was reminiscent of the ticker found within Facebook and I found it made my screen feel cluttered and claustrophobic. However, collapsing this ticker defeats the purpose of evaluating the new social search features.

My top search results: Wiki article on the Andromeda Galaxy, two scientific articles and a male infertility clinic followed by a preview of an image search. Wedged between my search results and the social plugin was a list of advertisements and a list of related searches. The social plugin? It just provides me with a list of Bing searches that my friends have posted on Facebook. None of this list pertained to my actual search. Instead it was a complete distraction and provided me with nothing useful.

Bing Results

On to Le Goog:

With Google, the “personal” or social search results were interspersed with the regular results. A toggle allows me to view just the personal results if I prefer. My top results were a bit less varied in that it suggested Wiki articles on both Andromeda Galaxy and the television show, as well as an IMDB link. On the side it suggested related searches to expand the search range and below was a quick preview to an image search.

On the landing page there is also a list of search tools that include limiting your search to a particular time frame, dictionary results, reading level, translated pages. While my main landing page has a little less variety, it seems laid out in a more intuitive way. The main search topics are more thoroughly covered but there is also easier access to more complex searches.

Google Results

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

The “personal” results brought up a search results of all public posts within my Google Plus sphere, but not just any old post – only the ones pertinent to my search. My Googleverse has just been blown out of the water. With a vague recollection that a friend shared an article about Andromeda, I can use the personal results to quickly locate their original post. This search is far more, well, personal.

Google Personal

Sorry Bing, you’re just not there yet. Like Facebook, I feel like I’m being broadcast at rather than customized to. And if you’re out there still wondering how Google Plus can be useful for you? Go circle up a group of people who post on topics that interest you. Your search results will thank  you.

Conversations with Mohammed


With a sad heart, I’ve realized Mohammed closed his account. Our conversations are over and I have this vague, incomplete feeling like something is now missing from my life.

I first met Mohammed in a Google Plus Hangout. With 10 people, our group video chat room was full. Most of us were Americans and Mohammed’s video was muted. He wasn’t talking, nor was he joining in the text chat on the side of the room. After an hour or two, I’d forgotten he was even “in” the room. As a non-Muslim American, I’ll admit there’s a lot of bias, suspicion and general doubt that involves reading about or interacting with anyone named Mohammed that lives anywhere in the Middle East.

I’m not sure how or why we managed to get to this topic, but I mentioned an article I’d read about a teenage boy in Saudi Arabia who’s father had 4 wives. He’d done an “Ask me anything” thread and I was absolutely fascinated at this glimpse into a completely foreign life. With the introduction of this topic Mohammed came alive, first in the text chat, next by speaking and finally, by coming on camera and fully debating with us. We learned he was from the Gaza Strip and Palestinian. A product of a harsh, war torn life he was nonetheless very respectful of us, listened and debated in the true spirit of a real dialogue.

I. Was. Fascinated.

I love people. I find them intriguing. My main thrill with Google Plus Hangouts is the ability to connect with so many diverse, interesting people. They all have a story to tell, hopes, dreams, fears, worries, families and friends, pains and troubles. I have so many interesting “pen pals” and “conversation partners” from around the world. I love listening to them and finding out what makes them tick. I like having my own view of the world challenged, I absolutely love it when someone presents an opposing view point and persuades me to their point of view.

Mohammed and I kept talking. He didn’t work Fridays and I found myself looking forward to my next Thursday night. As the evening drew late for me, the sun would be rising for him. We’ve spent long hours debating politics, religion, families, society. I saw the peace he found in his religion. It truly gave him what he wanted and needed from life and I can appreciate that about him. He lived in a mosque. In his late 20’s he and his brother were building a house and it needed to be finished before he could begin looking for a wife. The only women he interacted with were his family members, but he talked to his mother every day and had a deep respect for her. You could see it in his eyes, the healthy respect he had for all his female relatives. He told me I reminded him of his favorite sister – she too had green eyes and he said I even looked like her.

He was intrigued by American culture. His only real information was what he saw in movies and he had no real concept of the average, daily American life. At first, he felt that we had no values. As we talked, he began to see that we did have a value system, it was just rooted in a very different core value. Everything in his life came back to submitting to the will of Allah. Everything was about obedience – from how you lived, to where you worked, to what you ate and when you slept. I still cannot fathom an entire lifestyle built on this core value. As an American, I value independence. I’ve been taught from an early age to find my own way, educate myself and make decisions based on my own thought process.

We come from opposite ends of the world, opposite ends of culture, opposite ends of religion. And yet, we had so very much in common. We both have families we love, we’ve both been misunderstood, we both just get through each day the best way we know how. He told me stories of childhood in a strict Muslim community, from having trouble staying up late for the last prayer of the day to time spent with his sisters. I learned about his pride in his community, the things he ate and his surprise at our perceptions of where he lived. He learned all about us too. Our frustrations at how deeply our government has let us down, how much many of us don’t support war in the Middle East (although we do support our troops!), how grounded I am as a Mom and how connected my family is to each other – that we also have family values here.

He never said good bye. I don’t know why he’s closed his account. Perhaps his house is finished and this chapter of life is over. Or maybe these conversations with a foreign woman were taboo. I’ll never really know, but my friend Mohammed, I shall miss you.


Deep down, I think all any of us really want is to connect to someone around us.  Albeit to varying degrees, we all want to have a sense of belonging, a sense of being understood, a sense of being cared for and a sense of being listened to. In return, we want to reciprocate and mirror these feelings to at least one other human being out there.

Recently I’ve been deeply touched by an outpouring of positivity on a newer project of mine. I’ve been organizing a group of people who want to come together and discuss how technology affects the modern family; both good and bad. What’s amazed, flattered and moved me isn’t just how many people were interested in the project. What has stood out the most is how many have thanked me for my efforts.

It is in that moment that I’ve realized how much this simple connection means to us. I know that many parents, children, teachers, relatives and mentors struggle with similar questions about how to integrate and prepare for this world that insists on evolving at light speed. There’s no right answer, but the discussion seems to be an important one for an increasing number of families.

With a simple idea, we reached around the planet and connected so many separate people questing for the same answers. Our problems, families and issues are all different but at the root of it all, we’re all intrinsically the same. No matter what type of tech question or challenge came up, I keep hearing the same solution: build a good foundation and be open to communication.

It’s such a basic human need. To understand and be understood, to love and be loved, to listen and be listened to…

…and sometimes it’s the internet that fulfills that need.

Through this electronic connection, I find so many communities and they all fill different roles for me. Facebook connects me to my close friends and family, Reddit fulfills my inner geek and need for debate. With Skype I maintain friendships face-to-face, even when they move away. And Google Plus gives me the chance to discover new people, both in text and through face-to-face communication.

These interwoven webs of people are driven by common ideas, regardless of location. The world begins to shrink.

No! You Don’t Get to See My Bathrobe

You think your private social media posts are relatively safe and private, right?

Wrong. Very wrong.

I’m not remarking on privacy policies on Facebook or Google. I’m also not remarking on the random hacking of your account. I’m not remarking on the blasted discussion of the privacy of your information (statistics) collected by various websites. Instead, I’m talking about the erosion of our own sense of privacy, the loss of the value of the privacy of your inner thoughts and conversations.

Let me set the stage for you:

You’ve been unemployed for several months and while applying to the local county position the application form requests your user name and password for your Facebook, MySpace, Google Plus or other social media account. Wanting to move forward in the interview process you dutifully complete the information.

While employers are forbidden from asking (and discriminating against you) for age, race, religion, sexual orientation, marriage status and kids access to these social network can provide them with all of those answers without ever uttering a word. Worse yet, they have access to every picture, every random thought and every inside joke posted behind the wall of your public persona. And now, now they get to make a hiring decision about you.

Here’s another picture for you:

You’re a student who’s just landed a full scholarship based on basketball. To remain on the basketball team you have to allow one of the coaches full access to your Facebook account so they can monitor your behavior. If you don’t comply, you don’t get to play. Not playing means you don’t get the scholarship and therefore, an education.

While discussing this troubling trend, I’ve seen many replies along these lines:

  • Tell them you don’t have a Facebook account
  • Make a second account for them
  • This is why we need to be able to have false names
  • Use Facebook Exfoliate
  • I deleted my Facebook account because I realized how unsafe it was becoming

This is my very contention.

We should not have to do any of these steps to protect communication done within an expectation of private conversation.

I have a public persona and I frequently make public posts. These are posts designed to be read by strangers and friends alike. To be honest, even in my more private posts I do not post content that would ever be embarrassing or a problem for me if seen by an employer, relative or child. As an individual I use different social networks for different purposes. On Facebook I share photos of my children and small daily moments I know matter to my closest friends and relatives. On Google Plus I tend to share more randomized fragments of information or whims based on the things I find on the internet. It could be recipe or simply a  clock I find intriguing. On both of these platforms I do not post about work other than in a very general sense (i.e. I was so busy today!). I don’t list my employer and even facts like my relationship status are hidden from general public view. LinkedIn is reserved for professional contacts and work related posts.

I’m not really a very private person; in fact I’ll answer almost any question you put to me when asked on a personal level. But among my trusted friends and family I might share more personal information than on a random public post. This information is shared with an expectation of privacy because it is not shared on a public level.

It frustrates and astonishes me that we are now in a place, here in the United States, where people are willingly giving up their privacy in order to secure a job or a scholarship or a place on a sports team. Let me make this clear: I do not fault the individuals acquiescing to the request; I fault the institutions pressuring this acquiescence. Even worse, I fear for the upcoming generation that hasn’t learned the value of their own private thoughts and conversations.

In the privacy of my own home I will walk from shower to laundry room stark naked as I go to retrieve a shirt or dress to wear for the day. This is perfectly acceptable behavior within in the walls of my own home and I certainly wouldn’t go check the mail lacking covering. I might check the mail in a bathrobe; attire again acceptable within the confines of my neighborhood but definitely not anything I’d don for a day at the office. We have these same expectations on our social media sites. I’d take deep, personal offense and complete outrage at a prospective employer expecting to see me in my bathrobe before deciding if they’d hire me. It doesn’t matter what I look like in the bathrobe, it’s private. Period. Better yet, having someone ask to go back and review my naked moment in the privacy of my own home?

We should all be outraged at these types of requests and unafraid to stand up for our inner monologues. They’re ours, they’re uttered within a trusted circle and they should remain there.

Here’s the article that sparked my outrage:

Here’s the conversation that ensued today:

Google Plus

Sometimes technology has a way of touching us in the most unexpected ways.

I joined Google Plus during its infancy, within the first month during the throttled-invite-only phase. I must confess, I was courted more by the exclusivity of it all than because I was so very anxious to join another social network. All I knew was that you had to be invited and that it was only 1 week old.

It took me only a week or so to drum up the courage to join a Hangout, a feature that allows you to video chat with up to 9 other people from pretty much anywhere. It was scary, my palms were sweaty and they were complete strangers. In fact, everyone I interacted with on Google Plus was a stranger. And yet, there we were, saying hello, responding to posts and exchanging ideas down threads of conversation.

I really had no idea what was in store for me. None. If you told me then where I’d be now, I would have said you’re insane.

Once I recovered from the initial nervousness I realized everyone else was in the same predicament. Some hid it better than others, or were just inherently more comfortable with the medium; however Google Plus was too new for anyone to be established at Hangouts. As the comfort level grew, so did my enjoyment and love of Hangouts.

As a single mom, I don’t get out much these days. The boys are in bed early but I am up for hours still, a night owl and social by my very nature. Hangouts give me the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world, to sit up late at night and converse, argue, debate, listen to music, explore the internet and ultimately forge some incredible new connections and relationships.

Over the past 6 months I’ve been able to broaden my horizons in fantastic ways. I was introduced to dubstep (yes, I know!) through a music Hangout. I’ve gotten to know more about the remarkable differences and intriguing traditions of other cultures through direct chat with strangers I may never see or meet. I’ve randomly helped a few strangers through small donations. I’ve seen exotic locations through mobile Hangouts and had discussions on everything from food to health care to love won (and lost) .

There have been some incredible, personal stories shared with me. Some publicly in comments on threads and some far more privately. I’m always touched when virtual strangers open up and tell me more about what makes them, them.

After posing a question, what book really seized your imagination and got you to start reading I was astounded at some of the deep answers shared with me. Behind the curtain of a monitor people shared parts of themselves few people share face to face. I read about one person using books to fulfill the role models they never received from their own parents; another shared his personal work experience with one of my favorite authors.

Similar stories, moving and emotional came after a post about dating single parents. I cherish each time people shared themselves with me. Everything from a mother’s death, to the loss of a twin, to surviving childhood cancer, to orphaned adults alone for the holidays…job loss, promotions!, gift exchanges, sharing of that one little link you know will matter to someone, exposure to new music – so much to explore, but all of it in a very personal matter.

What this has really boiled down to, for me, is that all those random, strange “internet people” have become so much more. Connecting through common interests rather than common locations, I feel like I’ve had this amazing opportunity to explore the people that make up the internet.

So what happened to me? I wound  up on a cruise with some of those “internet people” and had the absolute time of my life. I challenge you , who’s out there waiting for you to get to know them? Who haven’t you met yet? What haven’t you learned about yet?

Single Mom, Social Butterfly, Insomniac

Single Mom. Social Butterfly. Insomniac

These three qualities have left me with hours of spare time sandwiched between 8:30 pm and whichever wee hour of the morning my body and mind finally collapse into exhaustion. Bored by television and in the mood to socialize, online networks have provided the window into the outside world I craved.

I have two main sources of direct social connection at the moment: Google Plus and Facebook. I find I use both of them for very different reasons. For years Facebook has given me the opportunity to reconnect with lost friends and stay abreast of the every day happenings of my closer friends and family. Now Google Plus gives me new content discover and interest based connections.

I was delighted when a high school friend tracked me down on Facebook. Reconnecting for the first time in 15 years she told me that her memories with me were some of the happiest from her childhood. Year later, we found our lives hadn’t been that different in the intervening years. We both have 2 sons and are divorced and we still enjoy and easy camaraderie.

Other Facebook friends include grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins and far distant friends who enjoy the posts about my daily life and photos of my kids. Separated by distance, we’re still able to follow the basics of each other’s daily lives. I know when their kids are sick, when they get a raise, a chance to see the picture of my cousin’s wife baby bump, birthday parties, food adventures and all the small details that make up a person’s life. From across the country I’m able to feel like we’re still a part of each others lives.

Recently I’ve noticed a growing trend of broadcasting. I’m observing a lot of chatter: “I’m doing this” or “Pic of kid” or “I am here”. I’m seeing less and less commentary on each person’s broadcast of their life. I don’t know if this is simply busy lives, a growing fatigue at maintaining the social connection, boredom with the homogeneous content or some sort of mix. Even I feel challenged to find relevant comments. After the 100th picture of a friend’s child or pet I find have nothing new to say or contribute. You can only say “How cute!” so many times and still sound authentic. The thing is, I still really enjoy seeing these pictures; I just don’t know what to say without sounding contrived or cheesy.

I find that I’m using Facebook more and more to see the trivial details that breed familiarity but we’re losing the conversation that’s involved with discovery. We share the intimate details of our daily hum drum, but we’ve quit challenging each other to think. This familiarity seems to prevent us from exploring the differences we still share; instead allowing those same differences to drive us further apart. Without the conversation it’s really just a bunch of people all chattering about their own lives.

This brings me to Google Plus

I’ll admit, Google Plus isn’t for everyone, at least not in the manner I use it. For me, Google Plus is about new content discovery and finding new contacts; contacts based on both common interests and challenging view points. The circle format gives me the chance to follow new people while maintaining my privacy and the ability to form long posts means I get more than a 140 character snippet of thought. Instead, there’s a conversation 40 million voices strong.

I understand that not everyone is looking for new content the way I am. Many are simply to busy or hesitant to add new people in to the streams of their lives. “I don’t care about the opinions of strangers” is what I hear from my friends when I talk about Google Plus. It’s not that I care about the opinions of strangers for making decisions in my life, it’s that I find people inherently interesting. I love the discovery of commonalities across distance and I also love having my world view challenged.

One evening my sister and I played a nerdy board game, Settlers of Catan. Both the group of people and the game were new to me, but I had a blast. I was invited back to play again with the group, but the logistics of babysitting make getting there a challenge. The next day, a quick post on Google Plus netted 6 people who were interested in playing online. Within an hour we had an online game setup and using the Hangout feature were able to video chat while playing. Nearly instantaneously I found like-minded people to explore my interest.

The compelling nature of the group Hangout feature is that it allows me to know the people I interact with online face-to-face. True dialog. We share some of the daily chatter, we debate life, we joke, we play, we get the chance to really know each other. Text posts take on more meaning when I can hear their voice reading it to me.

Things I’ve gained:

  • We’ve challenged each other to get fit from across continents
  • Shared meaningful thoughts about our favorite childhood books
  • I’ve come across new art which I purchased
  • Had the pleasure of hearing about how Hangouts started
  • Exposed to new music
  • Debated merits of different healthcare systems in the US versus Canada
I love that Google Plus brings the content, people and ideas to me through my Stream. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a fond place in my heart for Facebook. It’s just that is now where I go to catch up with the people I already know. Google Plus is where I go to find new things and have my mind challenged.
And, as an insomniac, social single mom with hours of quiet time to fill, I’m loving every single minute of it.
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