A fun and strangely moving piece by the ever-astute Tim Bray (who works for Google) about Circles in Google+ made us wonder whether Google’s technologically sophisticated take on relationships might make us think far too much about the nature of our digital relationships? Is it generating a new kind of anxiety – Google+ Circle Complex?
Bray notes that, “the word “friend” groans under an overload of meaning.” It’s a debate that the technology of Facebook enabled us to sweep under the emotional carpet because everyone is our “Friend.” Facebook is the Communism of friendship, everyone is equal. Google+ enables us to be more selective and discriminating, but that brings more pressure.
Then there’s the memory problem that researchers have suggested is a result of Google. Our memories are getting worse because we’ve outsourced our memory assuming we’ll find whatever we need on Google. Bray says that when it comes to adding names to Circles, “There are so many names that I think I should know but probably I really don’t, they’re just names that sound like you should know them.” You know the feeling?
And then there’s the regret. “I have a short attention span,” says Bray, “have never held a job for a decade. I’m sad, watching names go by of people who were colleagues, realizing in so many cases that there’s little connection left.
I should hang on tighter to people.”
A poignant reflection on the passing of time, the nature of work and the meaning of relationships. Is Google + just too nuanced, too sensitive a technology? Does it make us think too much? Facebook may have encouraged oversharing but does Google + encourage ‘overcaring’? How we define and picture relationships has just got more complicated so it will be no surprise if the visual culture starts hearking back to a time in our lives when our vision of relationships were much clearer, more defined and demarcated. Or at least that is how they were in our imagination.