There has been lots of publicity over the New York Times‘s report that Google has finally ‘admitted’ that Plus was a ploy to track our behaviour online.
This isn’t really news, unless you count the ‘admission’, if you can even call it that. (VP of product management Bradley Horowitz spun it by saying that ‘Google Plus gives you the opportunity to be yourself, and gives Google that common understanding of who you are.) After all, when something’s free, you’re the product, etc etc.
But, to be honest, by the time I read this, my Google Plus activity had already flatlined.
Whenever I try out a new platform or network, I’m only likely to stick with it if it offers something functionally useful that isn’t already being provided by something else. When I first got onto Google Plus, I thought it might be better than Twitter for discovering longer-form content, and a less hectic environment in which to browse through interesting galleries or articles. In terms of what I shared, I tried to differentiate what I posted on there from what I was already tweeting about, so as not to overload my friends with the same stuff multiple times.
I stuck with it for a while, but eventually it petered out around September last year.
As I barely use any other Google products, and prefer for my every move not to be so heavily tracked, I was hardly ever logged in, so posting something became a chore. But, more importantly, I quickly found that the active people I was already connected with on Twitter were sharing a lot of the same stuff in both places, and on Facebook, and LinkedIn, and everywhere else. In addition, if I found something I felt worth sharing on Google Plus, I inevitably preferred to share it on Twitter too, as this was where I had more connections, and where people seemed more likely to engage more immediately if they were interested. It seemed unnecessary to share and receive the same stuff in so many places.
This is also symptomatic of the growing trend in the last couple of years that everything is repeatedly shared everywhere, reblogged, and shared again. It’s getting harder and harder to find the original art, at its original source.
Here’s what this experience has reinforced for me: when you’re using the web in a personal capacity, the medium doesn’t matter. What matters is the artist and their art. And, to some extent, the people who are best at curating it.
(Of course, when it comes to using social for business purposes, it’s a bit more tricky. How many meetings have you been in where someone says ‘Our brand needs to be on Google Plus/Pinterest/*insert name of any seemingly shiny new network here*’? Unfortunately, as the New York Times article notes, this is where Google’s powers and the lure of SEO prevail. But this is a subject for a whole other blog post.)
Meanwhile, if you find a great blogger/photographer/writer/filmmaker … make it your business to visit their site/gallery/portfolio/blog/magazine, lap it up, then share the best aspects however you see fit. Likewise, when you find someone else who’s good at finding that stuff, follow their posts for inspiration.
It really doesn’t matter what network you’re on – we’re interconnected enough now that the great art will rise to the surface. And, on the off-chance you find something amazing that hasn’t yet had its day in the sun, give the creator the credit and share it right from the source – before someone else turns it into a Buzzfeed and just gifts more traffic to … Buzzfeed.