I’m far from ready to say anything constructive about Google+ other than this: I probably won’t use it much until it has an iOS app. I just don’t do much “social” in front of a full keyboard, and I’m not a fan of using mobile web apps in Safari for recurring activities.
I will share what I consider the most creative and insightful perspective I’ve seen about Google+ so far, though.
Like Gmail before it, Google+ is using an effect first discovered by the German sociologist Georg Simmel in the later 19th century. Simmel saw a diffusion effect that in our era of “memes” and “media viruses” doesn’t get talked about very much. There are two mechanisms to Simmel’s effect. In the first, lesser groups seek to imitate elites. This provokes the second mechanism. When elites find themselves imitated, they drop the practice in question and move on to something new.
There is a sad human truth at the foundation of Simmel’s discovery. We are desperate to join any club that doubts it wants us, and we are prepared to make extraordinary efforts to make ourselves worthy. But once we get in, we are not so sure we care about the distinction after all, and our attention wanders to the next shiny object. Marx (Groucho, that is) captured this point nicely when he said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”.
Worth thinking about in an era when shiny new clubs are sneezed on us practically every week.