Google Plus: A Newbie's Review

As tech experts debate the pros and cons of Google's latest, we offer a novice's take on the growing social network. Our advice: Don't get left behind.

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Jenée Desmond-Harris' Google Plus Page

I'm not the most tech-savvy person in the world, but if there's one thing I hate, it's to be left out.

So when an invitation for Google+ arrives in my inbox, I accept it, even though I wonder if this "invitation" really represents some sort of exclusive privilege. I'm still not convinced. It reminds me a little of when a representative from Barbizon announced to me and a group of gangly 14-year-old friends that we'd been selected to sign up for a $2,000 modeling school ... along with every other awkward teenager at the mall that day.

Thankfully, unlike Barbizon, Google+ is free. After a couple of clicks of the mouse, I'm prompted to assign my contacts to my own personal social hierarchy: "friends," "acquaintances," "following" and "family." Easy enough. My favorite homemade headshot (Oh, this old thing? I just snapped it with my webcam -- after 12 tries) becomes my profile picture, and I e-exhale: I won't be left behind. I'm in, and pretty early, too.

I joined Google+ not because I need a new way to connect with people through my laptop -- I'm a longtime Facebook addict and prolific G-chatter, and I'm more than satisfied (read: way too distracted) by those two outlets. Rather, I'm determined to avoid another late-joining, uneasy relationship like the one I have with Twitter (more on that later).

And if the Internet behemoth's new social networking platform -- billed as some cross between Twitter and Facebook -- is going to catch on, I want to be there to watch it happen. Still in its beginning stages, Google+ is obviously not mainstream yet. But enough people are on it that the curious can get a good idea of what it's all about. Here's what I discovered.

It's All Men

Or just about. A friend's Facebook status warns even before I join: "Google says that Google+ is 86 percent male. Proud to be a part of the World's Biggest Sausage Party."

My small (OK, minuscule) network bears out this characterization. My feed is dominated by the posts of a male, technology-loving friend who is almost as interested in this new service as he is in passionate debates about all things smartphone-related. Then there is a slew from a talented writer friend whom I recently hid on Facebook after concluding that the brutally honest single man's perspective of his dating blog was harmful to my psyche.

Female friends (and acquaintances and family members) are either absent or relatively quiet. The good news is that Dating Blogger actually turns out to have a lot to talk about on Google+ that's unrelated to the seedy side of bachelorhood, and Tech Enthusiast Guy offers to assist with any questions.

The experts say that women are waiting to see whether it's worth it before they join. My jury is still out.

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