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Forcing myself into little circles

Submitted by on Thursday, 21 July 2011 2 Comments

I’ve come to the conclusion recently that my perfect friend would be a geeky food-allergic liberal with quirky sense of humor, an obsessive interest in education issues and a tolerance for cute crap my kids do. Passing familiarity with NASCAR and baseball would be helpful, but I’m OK with it if you don’t love it. Just nod and smile as I chatter away.

Problem is, none of my friends comes close to a match. Neither do I on a daily basis, for that matter, and that’s before you throw in random stuff that sometimes amuses or interests me.

That’s the challenge of Google+, which I’ve been on for about three weeks and seriously played with for only a few days.

I love its capability of dividing friends into “circles” based on our relationships, so that I’m not boring education geeks with NASCAR links. I also love that I can choose to read only what specific “circles” are posting because, frankly, I’ve added some folks because they’re leaders or experts in certain fields but they’re so noted and Net famous that one post from them can easily dominate an entire computer screen by the time 100 people or so comment on it.

But I don’t like the idea of confining myself – or my friends – to a tiny circle that they can’t escape.

There’s also still enough journalist in me to believe that sometimes people need to know things even if they don’t especially want to. I’d put all my food allergy posts and some of my education links into that category.

Often on Facebook a friend not familiar with allergies will respond to a story on that topic. I feel like I’ve done my job for the day in raising awareness when that happens.

I also don’t like arrogantly assuming that I know everything that everyone else is interested in. Some of my best education discussions on Facebook start with a high school pal I would not have pegged as being particularly interested in the topic. His youngest son is about Big Guy’s age, though, so he and I are on the front lines of many of today’s  controversies.

There’s also a career management issue for me. I make my living online, and all my social networks are visible to the world. But if my only public Google+ posts are about cute crap my kids say because I don’t want to bore baseball fans with articles about online paywalls, I come off as an airhead.

Don’t get me wrong. I like “circles” as an organizing principle. Part of my problem with Twitter in the past few months is that I don’t have a chunk of time to spend sorting people, a capability that didn’t exist when I created my account. The signal-to-noise ratio there also is out of whack, and I’m bloody tired being followed by crowd-sourcing companies because I happened to mention that I was going to crowd-source my decision about a new coffee pot. You still can’t beat Twitter for breaking news, though.

I don’t like that circles encourage us to fragment an already fractured and fractious world where far too many people shriek shrilly to those who believe as they do. I like having my views challenged in a nonhostile way. I like hearing the other side. I like the random humor other people find in their worlds. I love the head-slapping moment of enjoying a good story I otherwise would never have found.

Can I find that and be that on Google+? Probably. I just haven’t figured out how yet.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Meredith said:

    True, Debra. You are being thoughtful today about the “big picture” of technology allowing us to limit ourselves and our knowledge. When I was a kid in the Baby Boom era, didn’t have the choices we have today. Radio stations in range of us played a mix of rock mixed with the boring slow stuff our parents liked, and we heard a few country hits from time to time. I’m not a country fan, but as a result of those years of radio being less specialized (less “circular?), I know the best songs of Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra from when they were mixed in the radio playlist with my Jefferson Airplane, Doors and Beatles favorites. We saw whatever the local movie theater offered, good or bad, and some of those awful B-movies were great.

    Circles are convenient. But they can be traps. They limit our exposure to art of all kinds, to ideas and creativity.

  • Debra said:

    EXACTLY! And, ironically, my interest in NASCAR came about after I was “forced” to read a former co-worker’s columns on page proofs. He’s such a great writer that he sucked me in. You just never know how or why an interest is going to be sparked.