I am the mad scientist of social media.
Back at the end of July, in another one of my social media experiments, I’d sort of made a resolution to myself to only use only Google+ in August and see what it got me. I didn’t really tell anyone about it, just sort of did it. The impetus for the whole thing is that I’m really starting to loathe the whole Facebook experience. Not the connections or people I’ve made there, but the user experience and interface is just lousy – and Facebook doesn’t really seem too interested in improving that in either its webpage or mobile app.
Google on the other hand is continuing to improve and innovate to the extent that I’ve read articles on the web of instances in which people have dumped their flickr accounts for Google+, left Facebook – essentially trying to have Google+ be the one ‘go-to’ social media source for them. This has always appealed to me as well – I’ve always been on a quest to find that ‘swiss army knife’ of a social media app. One ring (or plus, heh) to rule them all.
For quite some time while still checking into Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I haven’t been doing it though the native apps, I’ve been using Flipboard which provides a much better experience. It has most of the features of the native apps and none of the hideous design or clunky usability features. The drawback of course is that those companies aren’t going to port all their goodies to 3rd party apps obviously, so some key elements – namely notifications – don’t exist in Flipboard. Even with that being the case I was happier with it than the native mobile apps and had decided that though I was going to go Google+ only for August as my experiment – I would still allow myself to read/view the streams from my other apps, just not comment or post there. (FYI, you can also read a lot of other feeds, including Google+ through Fliboard, check it out.) Call it lurking if you want, but I still wanted some of the content/links/stories that can be found on those other sites, but I wanted to see if I could use Google+ only for the bulk of my online interaction and see if it filled my needs.
Most people’s primary complaint about Google+ when trying it out (and the subject of lots of articles and bloggery) is that “there’s no one here” or “it’s a ghost town” – to some extent this is true.
G to the Plus, Yo!
It’s not that no one is using Google+ – there’s 100 million users there as of April – it’s just that people have spent years cultivating their community over at Facebook and the subconscious assumption is that on jumping over to Google+, one will have the same kind of experience and level of engagement. Unfortunately, that’s not the case – yet. You simply can’t take all your Facebook contacts with you to Google+, believe me, I’ve tried, but what the past few weeks have taught me is that you might not need to right away.
What this experiment has done is get me to start circling/following people I don’t actually know, based on interest – something that seems MUCH weirder on Facebook and something I only used to do, really, on Twitter. Google+ has built a user experience and interface that really encourages and facilitates this yet still gives you the security/confidence and easy ability to only share more intimate posts with select people/groups when you want to – all in one app.
Since I’ve taken this ‘stranger plunge’ so to speak, the level of quality conversation and engagement I’ve experienced on Google+ has gone up radically and overall the whole thing has become much more satisfying.
I won’t lie, I’ve gradually been pulled back into Facebook – backsliding – partly because I was tagged in photo and felt compelled to comment on it, but also, I’ve missed the conversation there with some people and groups that I really enjoy. Really, it’s the people and conversation that are good – but simply because there are more established connections there. I hope over time that my Google+ experience will grow to equal, or even surpass that of Facebook.
Say it with me, Facebook is ugly.
One thing being away from Facebook – at least the native app/page – has caused to resurface from the depths is my contempt for the overall Facebook user interface. It’s just hideous, period. As a person who makes my living designing things, after a while, I just get pissed off that they simply don’t realize this – or if they do, they don’t care. Currently, Facebook seems more focused on monetizing the business model than they are with improving the user experience. Ads, promoted posts, suggested pages – it’s a very “hey, we’ve got some blank screen space here – we’ve got to figure out a way for that to earn money”. They’re totally trashing the joint.
Hey, Facebook people. Did you know there’s NO ads over on Google+? None. As in zero.
Over the years, Facebook has rolled out tweaks to their overall design in small doses here and there. Sure, the Facebook of today looks radically different than when it started out, but this is the result of YEARS of little, sometimes indistinguishable changes. In my opinion, they practically need to clean house and start over from scratch. Also, quit making changes to how my profile appears to other people (Timeline). I don’t care about that. Make it so it’s not like pounding my toe with a hammer every time I try and use it.
I hope that Google can continue to innovate and improve without resorting to a full on shilling of every inch of white space, because although I’ve begun to realize that I probably never will fully leave Facebook – due more to other’s unwillingness to do so than anything else – I will be visiting less and less.
I haven’t been on twitter in ages. I think that’s a whole ‘nother post.