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.

Jenée Desmond-Harris' Google Plus Page
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.