Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Minus One

After spending nearly a week Behind the Curve, I finally was able to join Google Plus a little while ago. The netocracy threw open its doors and welcomed me into a world without Facebook. No, strike that. A world beyond Facebook. I obligingly entered.

Man, what a mistake that was.

After fumbling around with my "Circles" for a while, I managed to get the site to recognize that I had at least three or four friends. Indeed, the site seems to now be double-counting them, as the same handful of people are each in about four different circles.

Next, I thought, I should send my roommate a message. You know, something like "hey charles i got plus lol how r u."

So I headed over to his profile. To be fair, that's simplifying a bit.

First, I clicked on my circles. That's also simplifying a bit.

You see, there is, as far as I can tell, no button that says "Circles" outright. Google has looked forward to the future, and recognized that our coming post-national Internetopia, borders will be meaningless and languages will be obsolete, and all of humanity will communicate through a combination of hieroglyphics and ChatRoulette and strange, onomatopoeic speech (buzzzzzzz). In furtherance of this end, the site is instead is adorned not with text but instead with little bits of iconography. Unfortunately, those often proved worthless to me, a homo sapiens 1.0, powered by a simple monkey brain.

Fortunately, this time, it wasn't that bad. After a few seconds of hunting around the page, I located the icon for my circles, which was... well, pretty much what you'd expect.

So I had arrived. My circles sprawled out before me, representing something I could not quite comprehend. I clicked on the little box with my roommate's name in it.

It changed color. Nothing else happened. I clicked again. It changed back.

Then I remembered that he was also in my "Friends" circle. I clicked on the circle, which expanded in a decidedly pleasing fashion. A box popped up. "Friends," it said. "Your real friends, the ones you feel comfortable sharing private details with." "Save," it asked me. "Or cancel."

Oh, that describes all the people in that circle for sure! I saved with enthusiasm. Now, onwards to Plus! I clicked the circle again.

The same thing happened. I saved again -- with less enthusiasm.

Clearly something important was eluding me. At the top of the screen, I clicked back on the box with my roommate's name in it. This time, I noticed that a tiny bit of text in the corner changed color -- one of the few tiny bits of text on the screen, something which Google Plus had already trained me to ignore. It said "View Profile." I clicked it. Success! It it had only taken me seventeen different clicks to navigate to his profile. In all fairness to Plus, with sufficient training, I could probably do the same with a minimum of three or four clicks. So that's pretty close to Facebook's two, right?

And I was immediately met with my next obstacle. I was face-to-face with my roommate's empty wall. Google probably would prefer that I not call it a wall, instead adopting whatever vaguely descriptive term their in-house Nomenclature Division had dreamed up, but no. We're living in the Year 7 A.Z. (Anno Zuckerberg) and the thing that confronted me was a wall.

I had mentioned that it was empty. A condition I would soon rectify! I clicked on it with zeal. No dice. I hunted around for an empty box to type into. Still nothing. The wall remained unchanged. Its immutability mocked me. "There are no messages to display." No, Google Plus! There is a message! Mine! I've got it right here! Display it!

At the top was a bar, and it said "Posts - About - Photo - Video - Buzz." Perhaps, I thought, this message is more appropriately Buzzed. I clicked that. "There are no messages to display."

I mulled over my situation. Google is clever and wise, but surely I -- a man who, according to Google Plus, has more college degrees than friends -- am more clever. Perhaps, I thought, I had to send him a message through my own profile somehow. I returned to it. (In case you're wondering, special crack teams of Google Semiotic Specialists have determined that a picture of a head within a circle is the appropriate hieroglyphic for "Profile.")

My wall sat empty and white. "There are no messages to display." No means of directing a message at my roommate presented itself.

Well, I thought, at the least, I could post a message to my wall, and perhaps after the Buzz it creates Streams down through the Circles, my roommate will discover it.

And then I realized with dawning horror that there was no apparent way for me to post messages to my own wall. I clicked around the page desperately. Nothing. Google had rendered me mute. My wall was as resolute as it was placid. No matter what I did, no matter what I pressed, it reported back to me that I had nothing to say.

There was a small text box in the corner, but it didn't let me actually type anything onto the wall. Instead, it read: "View Profile As." It let me view my profile as seen by any other person. It was some sort of bitter joke: I could see myself through anyone's eyes, and discover that to all of them, I was still just a man with nothing to say.

I sat, dumbfounded. I felt a momentary bond with the world's oppressed. For an instant, I was Tibetan, Tamil, Roma, Palestinian. I was on the streets of Tripoli. I was a Chechen widow. I was a North Korean prison laborer. I could speak but was doomed to remain forever unheard.

There must be a better way, I thought. There must be a brighter future out there for us, somewhere.

And there was! Like the Green Movement in Iran -- like the students who flooded Tahrir Square -- I have a blog. I have a voice. Does social media fuel revolution? Or am I revolting from social media? No matter -- those are questions for bespectacled analysts writing in Foreign Policy and the New York Times. I'm off to storm the digital streets, to make the world listen, no matter what Google has to say about it. And so, without further ado:

hey charles i got plus lol how r u


  1. This post is like talking about how high the taxes are when you win the lottery. BOO HOO.

  2. Dan! You're in my circles. I don't know what that means but you're in them.

  3. yeah, i've gotten 3 invites over the past week, and none of them have worked despite hundreds of clicks of "join google+". so suck it up, maybe

  4. It just randomly started working for me -- no idea why. It didn't even tell me or anything.

  5. Right on. Just so you know, they have training videos or whatever, and you can definitely post to your own wall (I'm not sure how much of your message was serious). Check out this guy's profile (he is one person that invited me) .

    Can't wait till I can get my superleftist sparks news service up and running.

  6. I figured it out eventually but it's still a bit weird, for the exact reason Charles identifies, which is that you, for the most part, generally have to explicitly identify who can see a post, and can't really direct something specifically towards someone except in private. Like Charles was all "hey dude I see your on plus lol whats up" but no one else could see, making the whole exercise feel sort of solipsistic and pointless

  7. That's why you need to invite some of your old super-cool highschool/college friends to liven up the joint.