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« July 2011 »

Memo to Tracy Mayor: YOU ARE DUMB.

Before we begin, full disclosure. I'm using Google+. I like it. I'm there under my name, and you can find me if you want, although odds are if you're reading the forum or following on Twitter, the only difference you'll see on G+ is the sentences I use to pimp the columns and links to Forkbastard posts.

I like Google+ because I am of exactly the same mind as the guy in the XKCD comic about Google+. I never joined Facebook. I never liked Facebook. I do like the idea of seeing a bunch of things my friends and acquaintances say, and seeing things they're doing or finding interesting, but at best, that's only third on the list of Facebook's priorities. Probably fourth.

Facebook's primary purpose is to identify which of your former classmates from high school and college have grown up to become reactionary Jesus-freaks. Which sounds like an exaggeration, but it is inescapable truth. Facebook grew on the strength of finding and reconnecting with people you used to know now that everyone's on the Internet. And every single person I know who's done this has at least two stories of finding crazy-ass right-wing bullshit on their wall after friending someone from their past.

Facebook's secondary purpose is to syphon money to Zynga via the purchase of virtual cows. This is indisputable.

Facebook's tertiary purpose is as the uber-AOL - a replacement for the Internet for people who can't be fucking bothered to use the Internet. This is a relatively recent development, as Facebook grows and adds various services available elsewhere on the Internet, but outside the wall. For the clueless user, Facebook is the new gated community.

Google, on the other hand, is of the Internet. Without the Internet, Google is nothing. So there's a sense that Google's services exist to improve the Internet, not provide an alternative to it.

What does all this have to do with Salon writer Tracy Mayor? Well, Tracy Mayor doesn't like Google+, and in the process of explaining why, ends up revealing to the world that she's doing the entire Internet wrong. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Whoa, Google+ wants to find and invite 560 of my contacts? Hold up. Even though my son would tell me, with eyes rolling, that only losers click on "find all" menu options like that, it's a potent reminder that I'm starting down the slippery slope of adding yet another social medium into my already overwhelmed digital life. I say that as a woman teetering on the brink of an electronic messaging meltdown. I have 150 unprocessed messages on Facebook, 258 texts on my cellphone and -- I am not proud of this -- 47,185 emails in my Gmail inbox."

You're right not to be proud of that. Your shit is widely dispersed, and it's not G+'s fault that you need to aggregate that fecal matter. But if you'd like, I'll be more than happy to identify the two words that are the sole source of your problem. Consider it a gift. Use it wisely.

Those two words are: "digital life".

You don't have a digital life, Ms. Mayor. You have a life. Gmail, Facebook, text messaging... these are all tools you use in the process of living your life. They are not your life. The Internet is a toolbox. The various sites and services on it hammers. Some of us grab the hammer, and some of us look at the hammer and decide that we're nails. Tracy Mayor is a nail.

Google+ thinks she knows 560 people on the Internet. But Google+ is guessing. Google+ thought I knew 300 people on the Internet. But I knew I didn't. Because I don't lead a "digital life", I know who I know and who I don't know. In my head. So it was a matter of minutes to look at those 300 people and decide which 30 or so were people I wanted to see stuff from on G+. And in the week since, a bunch of other people have signed on, presented themselves unto me for judgment, and either ended up in a circle or not in a circle. Again, based on whether or not I actually know them. Online or off. No slippery slopes. No "reminders" of how overwhelmed I am on other services. Because I use these services like everyone should use them - how I want to make my life better.

Because I have failed to organize my 221 Facebook friends or the 551 people I follow on Twitter into any kind of order, a wave of random digital news washes over me hourly, with updates from my former high school band director, my boss's boss's boss, an eco-activist organization to which I once gave $10, Anthony Bourdain, my youngest brother's former girlfriend and my dog all arriving in an unending, unedited stream. (Yes, the dog has her own Facebook page, don't ask.)... Now Google+ wants me to interact in a new, groovy way with 560 people? No no no."

No, indeed. But Google doesn't want you to interact with 560 people. Google wants you to do what you should have been doing on Facebook and Twitter, too. Exercising some fucking impulse control. Why does her dog have a Facebook page, and why is she friends with it? It's a DOG. I know she says "Don't ask", but that's just because the answer would undermine the entire article. If you're reading your dog's status updates, social networking isn't your problem. You are your problem.

So she can't use Google+, but she can't bring herself to leave it, because she doesn't want to be "left out", so she resents Google a little for putting her in this situation. But there's nothing wrong with being left out. I have lots of friends. These friends are on Facebook. They are active. They are sharing things. Eventually, I either learn these things through other means, or I don't. But I've never missed out on anything vital. Nothing life-changing. Nobody keeps the important stuff in just one place, so if you don't see it by being in a certain place, guess what? It's not important.

Use it or don't use it, that's up to you. But every time you malign some aspect of the Internet, keep in mind that the Internet is the only fucking way you can get paid for whining about the Internet unless you're Andy Rooney. And Andy Rooney is already Andy Rooney.