For a while I really thought Google Plus AKA Google+ was going to rise up and become the next big social network after Myspace and then Facebook. Half the people I know signed up for G+ during a short period of time, and there were even a few who said “Screw Facebook, I’m outta there — it’s just G+ for me from now on.” Facebook was certainly showing signs of losing their shit.
And for a while I crossposted all my Twitter and Facebook stuff to Google+ and it looked like the whole world might gradually shift on over, just like many people did from Myspace to Facebook half a decade ago.
Somehow Facebook managed to pull back from the brink, stem the tide of pissed off people shutting down accounts, and G+ saw a sudden and gigantic surge of spammy-looking traffic. When I first went to G+ I had only a small number of people in my circles and not many more than that add me to their circles, but soon I was had twenty or thirty people adding me per day, almost none of whom I actually knew in real life. It works OK to have a mix of people you know in the real world along with some virtual friends and a few people you don’t actually know or even understand why they’ve added you. But at some point if the number of people to whom you have no connection start adding you, it starts to feel like a big spamfest. It feels like Myspace all over again, people mass-adding friends as quickly as they can to promote their business or their band or their self-published novel.
Now I haven’t been to Google Plus in a week or two. I check the email notifications and see if any of the people who have added me are people I know in real life, or at least “friends of friends” that I could justify adding to a circle. Most of them are just complete strangers who seem to lack any reason to have added me to their circles.
I always figured social networks had an inevitable curve, where they grow until they become too big to remain manageable. At that point the incentive for spamming, self-promotion and deceit become too great, and they become a mess of ads, spam and junk . Is it possible Google Plus will be the first social network to reach that point without ever having actually succeeded first? That it might go straight from growing new network, to totally washed-up commercial wasteland?