A year and a half ago, social media was the furthest thing from my mind. Twitter was for people that shared way too much information in way too few characters. Facebook was a wasteland littered with Mafia Wars invites. And Google+ wasn’t yet a gleam in the eye of some Mountain View programmers. Flash forward to today and social media is a huge part of my day-to-day interaction with the world. However, in order to keep my sanity when it comes to my online services, it might help to recognize how each of them are used and what their places really are.
Facebook for me is used as a place where my family and real life friends can read about things like my college football commentary and pictures of my kids and their pets. Most of the people I went to high school with don’t know the true depths of my nerdity. They would probably unfriend me just as fast if I start blabbering on about MPLS or LISP. Facebook is where the boring details of my existence go for now.
Twitter is my geek outlet. Until I signed up, I had to restrain my thoughts about networking and voice and virtualization. No one really wanted to hear about it on Facebook, and my wife’s eyes roll back in her head once I get on a good rant about EIGRP. Once I realized that I could start expressing my repressed nerdy side, I realized that I had to be equally as cautious about what I put on Twitter. Just as my nerd side really doesn’t fit in with Facebook, so too does my ‘normal’ side not really jive on Twitter. I try to consciously avoid things like 4square checkins or useless contest invites cluttering my stream and the feeds of my followers. I really attempt to avoid talking about things like sporting events or politics or any number of hot button subjects that can set people off without warning. Those kinds of things can go into Facebook where only those that are interested can see them.
Google+, the latest invention in the Google Skunk Works, presents an altogether different proposition for social media interaction. The idea that I can separate my social circles into different collections that don’t need to share information is very intriguing. My family and real life friends can see a stream unpolluted with rants about Apple devices. My nerd followers don’t need to be bothered by pictures of my terribly built attempts at woodworking. People can be moved across different lines without much effort and no need to log in and out of five different clients to sync everything up. It’s not without limitations, though. Getting my mom and dad on Facebook took and act of Congress that I’d rather not repeat again. Getting them to join Google+ may be a task of Herculean proportions. Right now, Google+ is a social media service without much to the “social” part. There aren’t enough people invited to expand circles much beyond tech people that “get” the idea behind Google+. Right now, I have a lot of people in my Tech circle and hardly anyone in my other circles. I’m sure time will win out as the service moves out of preview mode and opens up to a wider audience. There’s a ton of potential in Google+ and I can’t wait to use it to offload some of my Twitter stream, Facebook status updates, and maybe even blogging topics.
I use social media to a large extent every day to gather information, learn about new things, and interact with a group of peers that I might not otherwise have been able to speak to. At the same time, I realize the importance of compartmentalizing information. My security background has taught me that much. When it comes to deciding how to divide up those compartments, I think the Google+ model works rather well. Using the symbolism of circles allows the users to visualize where their connections are placed in relation to each other. At least it easily allows me to segregate everyone rather than mashing them all together in one big conflagration. Because TweetPlusBook is a mouthful.