Steve Pavlina Google+

At this point I’m trying out Google+ to see how it works and to assess its potential. But given my negative experiences with Facebook, I’m doing this with one foot wedged in the doorway, so I can quickly flee if it seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

So far I’m cautiously optimistic because Google+ seems to intelligently avoid the major problems I had with Facebook.

No More Manually Approving Friend Requests

First, Google+ works like Twitter in some ways. You can follow people or they can follow you, but this doesn’t have to be mutual, and you don’t need to manually approve requests one by one if people want to friend you.

For someone like me who’s likely to end up with a very lopsided account, this is important. Facebook required me to manually approve thousands of friend requests (which is ridiculously lame), and when I hit the 5K limit, it just kept adding more people to a waiting list that grew longer and longer (even more lame).

It appears that Google’s engineers were smart enough to eliminate that nonsensical time waster. So that’s a definite +.

No Forced Inbox

One thing I really hated about Facebook is that it forced me to have an email inbox on their service. I ended up with too many friends for that to be practical. Facebook’s privacy settings were utterly broken in that regard. Even with the strictest privacy settings, people who weren’t even my Facebook friends seemed to be able to spam me endlessly (including in reply-all fashion), add me to groups, and invite me to events without my permission. This alone made it impractical to keep using the service.

With Google+, it was easy to change the privacy settings so that no one can email me through my Google+ page. I definitely don’t want thousands of people thinking they can just impulsively click a button to email me whenever they feel like it. The last thing I’d want is another inbox. I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made this year in reducing my email volume, and I really don’t want to mess that up.

So if Google+ later adds something like a forced inbox, it’s likely that I’ll quit their service immediately.

With Twitter I was able to eliminate the forced inbox just by following zero people there, so that’s the solution I use for Twitter. The only solution Facebook provides in this regard is to quit Facebook. Personally I think Facebook does this on purpose so you have to keep going back to their service to read your private messages, which makes them money since you’ll rack up more ad impressions with each visit. Hopefully Google+ will go the non-evil route.

Google+ Circles

Some people seem appreciative of the Google+ Circles. The circles allow you to sort people into different groups that have different levels of access to what you share. For example, you can share some status updates or photos with your friends and family but not your co-workers. The interface is clean and intuitive, so it’s an easy feature to use.

This feature doesn’t excite me since I’m used to having everything public in terms of what I share, so I doubt I’ll use it much. By default I’ve been using public sharing for everything. But if you’re a very private person then you might find this useful.

How I’ll Use Google+

For now I’m just playing around with Google+ to see how it works. Based on what I’m seeing so far, I suspect I could end up with a significant following there like I have on Twitter. As long as I can use it mainly broadcast-style to share updates and/or inspirational messages with people like I do on Twitter, and I don’t have to manage discussions or process more emails, then it should be reasonable to keep using it.

But if it requires extra work to manage it, I’ll most likely close my account and quit the service.

I don’t intend to use Google+ to stay in touch with friends and family like many other people might. It isn’t practical for me to try to maintain lots of long-distance relationships with people via the Internet. I’d rather spend a few hours talking to someone in person just once a year when they happen to visit Vegas (or I visit their city), and we can virtually ignore each other the rest of the year… as opposed to trying to keep in touch via status updates and publicly shared cell phone pics.

My New Approach to Social Networking

This year I’ve been cutting back on the online side of social networking, so I can focus on spending more time with people in person. In addition to dropping Facebook and greatly reducing my email volume, I also stopped participating in the discussion forums on my website, and I expect this to be a permanent change too. It’s not just that I’m no longer posting there. I’ve stopped reading the forums as well, so I won’t be following any of the discussions there, including the ones where people discuss my blog posts. To make it easier for me to break the old habits, I actually disabled my own forum account from being able to access any of the forums except for those on the admin side. And I’ll eventually replace myself as forum admin as well. I’m fine with continuing to host the community as a public service, but my time of direct participation there has ended. I need to progress to other forms of contribution that are a better fit for where I am today.

I realize this may be disappointing to those who’ve appreciated that we could connect online so easily. I hope you can understand.

For starters, I recently signed the paperwork to book 4 new workshops in Las Vegas. I’ll be officially announcing them next week, but if you want save the dates, here’s what’s coming up:

Sep 16-18, 2011 – Conscious Growth Workshop #6

Oct 21-23, 2011 – Subjective Reality Workshop

Jan 13-15, 2012 – Conscious Success Workshop

Feb 17-19, 2012 – Conscious Relationships Workshop

The first one is the latest incarnation of the classic CGW workshop that we put on four times last year. The other three are new. All of these are 3-day workshops that go from Friday to Sunday. They’ll be held at the Tropicana Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, which recently had a $200M renovation done.

Several CGW alumni have asked if I’d be willing to offer some kind of alumni discount. I understand the sentiment behind these requests, so you’ll be happy to learn that I’m planning to do something even better.

Each new workshop will have the usual $497 price, but when I first announce them, I’ll give everyone who registers an additional $100 discount for each workshop. So that’s up to $400 off if you want to attend all four of them, which I suspect some people will. I’m only going to offer this extra discount for a short period of time, perhaps for the first 7 days, in order to give people who are more price sensitive the chance to save some extra money.

I still need a few days to get everything set up to start selling tickets to these new workshops — launching 4 new ones at the same time is a lot of work — but I wanted to give you a heads up to save the dates and start budgeting for these trips if you might be interested in attending. I’ll share all the details about the workshops next week.

So the simple truth is that I’ve intentionally becoming more hermit-like when it comes to online communication, so I can be a lot more accessible when it comes to connecting with people in person. I understand and appreciate that this won’t be practical for everyone, but for those who do make the journey, it’s a lot more impactful than spending years typing messages back and forth.

For me this has a lot to do with creating a better life balance. Online communication is 24/7 and always on. That can be very distracting — and overwhelming too, if the volume becomes too great. Face to face communication naturally ebbs and flows. I can be super social during a workshop weekend, then relax with a smaller group afterwards, then enjoy some alone time where no one expects to hear from me.

Time will tell if Google+ can become a service that makes it easy to maintain a decent life balance… or if it pushes too hard in the direction of unbalancing one’s life.

At this point I’ll just say that I’m a lot more optimistic about Google’s chances to get this right than I am about Facebook’s. I’m hoping that Google wins this competition, and I genuinely expect it will given their solid history of engineering with the user experience as a priority.

Update July 7, 2014: I decided to delete my Google+ account after losing interest in social media. Then later I had to recreate it to be able to post videos to YouTube and to use Google Hangouts. I’m no longer active on Google+ though. For details, see Social Media, You Got Dumped.