Last summer, when Google+ was introduced, I was lucky enough to get in early and check things out before the seats started filling up. Back then, I had lots of hopeful things to say about the newest social media platform and how writers might be able to use it to their benefit.
All these months later, I would like to tell you how I, as a writer (primarily of fiction) have been using Google+: [cue elevator Muzak here]
That's right; I haven't been using it.
I have not started any "hang-outs" with other writers--I prefer to write by myself. I have not been using it to chat. I have not been diligently dividing my peeps into appropriate "circles." Okay, yes, I did divide them into circles, but in practice, the divisions have had very little meaning for someone like me whose work is meant to be read by everyone. Yes, I have been posting links to my work--the same links I post on Facebook and Twitter. I'm sure I'm reaching a slightly different audience at G+--that is, if any of the people who have me in their circles are reading my stuff. (In fact, if you're reading THIS, G+ people, I would like to know. A show of hands?) But more important, I haven't been reading many of the posts I see on G+, not because they're not interesting; I'm sure there are many interesting conversations going on, and some of them may even be about topics other than social media platforms and cats... I could blame web-fatigue in general; I've cut back drastically on my Facebook usage, too. But that's not it, because when I do read stuff I find in social media, it's most often through links posted by friends on Facebook.
The thing is, writers write. If I'm on three or four social media platforms ACTIVELY, and I'm not there to promote a book that comes out in a month or two, that's not called research, networking, or marketing. It's called procrastinating. I've vowed to do less of this. I'm still paying attention to what my MVP's are saying. But I'm not checking in as often or commenting as frequently myself. MVP, by the way, is Most Valued Poster.
Back to Google. What I'm trying to say about G+ is that I didn't drink the Kool-Aid. I may have Gargled with it (sorry! couldn't resist...), but that's all. When you've got Hawaiian Punch, there's no need to make a drink where you have to take powder and add water to it. If you do, it's probably going to be too watery anyway. Or oversweetened. I'll let someone else unpack that...
Now Google tells us that if we stick with them, we're basically going to do the Net equivalent of taking off our trenchcoats and flashing little old ladies at bus stops. Except without the trenchcoat in the first place. Or maybe fig leaf is a better metaphor. Google is taking our fig leaf away.
The important thing about the fig leaf is that it was an illusion to begin with. Larry Ellison of Sun Microsystems said, years ago, "You have no privacy. Get over it." Yes, he really said that. And it's basically true. But that doesn't mean we have to feel good about it or participate in it to the extent that we do.
Now here is the part where I do something The Simpsons have mocked, to paraphrase: "I can't believe this totally free service that I'm using voluntarily is doing stuff that I don't like!" The problem with this thinking of course is that Google is pervasive. It's hard to do much of anything online and avoid showing up on its radar. And if you're a writer, or a "content provider" (ugh), you want to be on Google's radar. You want to show up in searches, etc.
I'm taking my trenchcoat, my fig leaf, and whatever is left of my dignity, and I'm going home.