PsychBook Research

Collecting and analysing psychological research on the most popular social networking site in the world today.

Facebook vs. Google Plus: That’s +1 to Google

It’s probably not the best time to lash up a hastily planned blog post, being after 8pm on a Friday evening, and I really should be elswhere. But I’m sure you are all eager to hear what I think of Google’s new social network – positively frothing at the mouth, I expect.

In that case, you should re-read what I’ve already written (!) but you probably won’t, so I’ll spell it out:

Google Plus is clever, and superior to Facebook in design, because it’s ‘Circle’ feature more accurately reflects how human social relationships are actually structured (see Family, Facebook and the future of social networking). Basically, we don’t like all of our circles to be open. The problem for Facebook is that its original demographic of college students have graduated, which is why those circle gadgets could be perfect for them – one for college friends, one for work colleagues, one for family. I know, it’s as if Google have been reading this blog, and not so much as a flippin’ cheque.

Does this mean that Google Plus, their fourth attempt at social networking, will dislodge Facebook? No. That would require several things to happen, such as being easy to join, profiles being easy to build, those circle yokes actually working correctly, and a network effect building quickly, among others, including privacy issues.

Now that I think about it, this is more profound than might initially appear. It’s not just two companies, because what should happen is that we will witness and participate in is a battle between two rival theories of human psychosocial relationships.

On the one hand, Facebook, who seem to think that ‘privacy is dead’ and that everyone wants to share everything with everyone else, have made their case quite clear. The Facebook way is radical, as I’ve said, because it makes this assumption, that everyone wants to connect with everyone else – you could call this a hypersocial perspective.

On the other hand, Google seem to be relying on a more compartmentalised approach, where we are more selective with whom we link, which I believe more accurately reflects how human society operates.

The crux of the battle for the the cybersocial mind is precisely that: have Facebook, with their established and dominant position as the social network, gotten enough users into that hypersocial-connect-to-and-share-with-everyone way of thinking to have effected a shift in consciousness? Or will the more intuitive design of Google Plus  mean that we will simply drift into its easier and orbit lazily round its circles? Without having to worry about who is reading your status updates or looking at your pictures?

Essentially, which is the best way of dealing with human relations: connection or compartmentalisation?

What do you want? To reach out to everyone, like a wannabe celebrity? or share only with certain people, in your own private clique?

If they do this right, with the provisos I’ve mentioned above, and more, I think this round is to Google, simply because the ‘circles’ are intuitive. However, Facebook have 600 million users, who are used to it and how it works: the hypersocial way could be the way of the future. It’s certainly made the social networking game more interesting, though I don’t expect to setting up a PsychPlus Research blog for, oh, at least eighteen months…

Categories: Opinion