There's a lot I don't like about Omaha.
It's too hot. There aren't enough bike trails or sidewalks. Or taco trucks. And everything closes too early on Sundays. ...
We should build a new city — maybe by an ocean. Wouldn't you like an ocean? We'll build a new city that fixes everything that irritates us about this one.
We'll call it Omaha+. And as soon as it's ready, we'll all move there together. Are you with me? Come on, who's with me? Omaha+ for the win!
* * *
I never thought I'd write a column defending Facebook.
I hate Facebook. I hate the sneaky privacy policies. I hate the fact that they're mining my personal conversations for data. I think we'd be better off if Facebook were a wing of the U.S. Postal Service. ...
(I really think that. Don't ask me about it unless you want to hear me rant patriotically about mail carriers.)
I like being on Facebook. I like the community it allows. But whenever I'm on Facebook, I feel like I'm buying into an ultimately shady operation.
When Google announced its Facebook alternative, Google+, I was immediately ready to sign on.
I know, I know, Google can be shady, too. But I admire a company that chooses "Don't be evil" as its corporate code. You can argue that Google is or isn't evil, but the fact that they're inviting the world to measure the company against that standard is still pretty impressive.
Also, I spend a lot of time at my computer, online, and I appreciate any company that makes my online world more beautiful. Google sites are clean and easy to use — and occasionally really lovely.
So. When Google+ opened its doors last month, I was waiting outside to get in.
I set up my account. I encircled everyone I knew who was there. ...
That's what you do on Google+. You don't "friend" someone like on Facebook, or "follow" someone like on Twitter. You add someone to a circle.
This is supposed to make it easier to manage how you share information. You can share your upside-down-margarita party photos with your "drunk friends" circle, and your cute stories about your kids with your "people who like cute kid stories" circle. Setting up your circles feels a little like organizing your closet.
But it's a nice feature. There are a lot of nice features on Google+ — huddles, hangouts, sparks — most of which I haven't bothered to sort out.
Because as nice as Google+ is, there's almost no reason to go there.
It's not that there aren't members. There are plenty of members. Twenty-five million registered users in its first month.
But most of these people are users like me, users who don't actually use it.
Posting something on Google+ is like cutting down a tree in an empty forest. Whenever I think of something to post online (riveting stuff: song lyrics I like, complaints about the weather, links to fan-made Harry Potter videos), I ask myself ...
Do I post this on Google+ because I want Google+ to be viable social network?
Or do I post it on Facebook, where people will actually see it?
Everyone is on Facebook. Everyone you'd want to talk to. Everyone you wouldn't. That's a popular reason for switching to Google+ — to get away from the people who irritate you on Facebook.
But if you're that annoyed by your friends and acquaintances, the solution isn't another social network. You can't be sure that only the cool people will find you there.
(If you're that annoyed by your friends and acquaintances, you should probably just turn off your computer and read a book.)
It's a not-vicious-enough-to-be-interesting circle: Nobody posts on Google+ because nobody posts on Google+.
My Google+ home page is worse than a ghost town. It doesn't even feel haunted.
Meanwhile, down the road — in a much less desirable neighborhood — Facebook is teeming with life.
People are appalling me with their political opinions and "poking" me and trying to get me to enter to win gas for life.
I'm getting invited to poetry readings and jewelry parties, and I'm looking at photos of people I've never even met in person.
It's a big mess — but it feels alive.
Which, in a social network, is a big plus.
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