Google+ is calling its platform “real-life sharing”. It wants to approximate the ways we interact on its platform to our real life behaviors. This would certainly seem to be a good idea, assuming that what people want is to carry on interacting online in ways that are continuous with their offline interactions. A number of points need making at this point. First, the way we interact offline nowadays includes all sorts of computer mediations, such texting. In other words, it is not as if the “real life” part is unambiguous. Whose real life, exactly, is Google+ trying to mimic? This is a great question, because it gives us an insight into the ideal Google+ user.
This then iterates back into real life. First of all, we may want to adopt the lifestyle of the ideal Google+ user. It is an ideal type that we may think we ought to try and approximate ourselves. Second, maybe we will start to conceive of our friendships in the way that we enact them on social network sites – that is, as a collection of discreet acts of information transfer. Google is certainly right that Facebook is off the mark in terms of the nuances of what we share and with whom (and speaking from personal experience, this is certainly the reason that I would not befriend my mother on Facebook, and find it hard to believe that anyone would (befriend their mother, that is, not mine)). But you can’t help think that “real life” is not just sitting in front of your computer screen and sharing your thoughts (and favorite links) about your favorite hobby, but actually going out and doing that hobby (I’m thinking of the Sparks part of the Google+ platform right now). More generally, the interesting question – to me at least – is whether people are starting to understand their own friendships in terms of sharing, and whether this would reflect an adoption of a category from the Internet. After all, we understand ourselves and our lives through social categories and constructs. My hunch is that “sharing” is becoming an increasingly important one.