virtually homeless? not quite

You know the feeling when your favourite bar/pub/café shuts down? The place where you go to hang out with your friends, where you bump into people regularly who you might never get seriously close to but you always nod and chat and feel they’re part of your life, and some of those strangers do, over time, become people you know and confide in and share life’s joys and sorrows with – and a few, a very special few, you actually get to know beyond the walls of this space, you exchange phone numbers and maybe even meet up somewhere one to one and send each other birthday cards and, yanno, become friends… but mostly, most of these people are ones you hang out with in that particular space, and when it shuts down, well, you’re going to miss them.

Google Plus was that virtual space for me for nearly eight years, and yesterday it was shut down.

I’m happy to say I’m not left virtually homeless, but there’s no platform that is going to be the same as what we had on G+. I’m now mainly on Twitter, which I’ve kinda got used to but it took me a while – being concise is not something that came naturally to me! but thankfully I still have my blog, where I can ramble at length and I can tweet links to my blog posts for those who have the time and inclination to read what I have to say in more than bite-size chunks. (I’m also on Instagram, though I’m less active there; and even less active on Pluspora. I just don’t have tons of time and energy right now for lots of different social media platforms. So the bite-size nature of Twitter actually works well for me now.)

And there’s lots of other G+ refugees on Twitter, so I haven’t lost all those relationships built over the years – there’s even a bit of rekindling of old connections, people who had gone a bit quiet but are suddenly reconnecting, there’s a sense of needing to stick together in our sadness over our beloved hangout place being demolished by Vogons (bypasses have to be built, as we all know). It’s an ill wind, etc :)

I fell in love with G+ pretty quickly – turned up in the Beta stage, found myself amongst fellow geeks happily checking out this shiny new toy, trying out the different features and exchanging tips about how it works. Then the nymwars started, and while that meant tons of frustration with Google, it also meant a camaraderie amongst those of us campaigning together. Some of the friendships that started then have remained. And for what it’s worth, we won!

What mainly appealed to me about G+ in the beginning was: the privacy settings; and the non-mutual following. I’d come there from a social media platform called Multiply (a small one that nobody’s ever heard of, and it shut down in 2012) where I was used to being able to post some stuff publicly and some privately, and on G+ it was the same but even more granular: you could set a particular post to just, say, your friends from the knitting circle or the ones who are into Star Trek or whatever. The one thing I’d felt was majorly missing on Multiply was non-mutual connections: over there, if someone wanted to follow you so they could see your posts, you’d have to add them as a friend or something, thus compromising your own privacy – on G+ people could just add someone and follow them without that person having to return the favour (just like on Twitter) and this meant I could easily get to know lots more people!

When I first joined G+ I knew very few people – only ones who had come over from Multiply. And my friends from meatspace were totally uninterested in joining. So I added whoever seemed remotely interesting. I did the thing that shy introverts like me normally don’t… I talked to strangers. All the time. And gradually built friendships, and gradually got more followers – I remember back in 2011 when I got really excited to cross the 100 line, but two years later I had 10,000 followers. Which, for a blogger who doesn’t get lots of traffic on her blog, was pretty exciting! Because I’d post a link whenever I’d blogged, and people would actually read and sometimes even comment!

And when Multiply, my previous virtual home, closed down in 2012, it was sad but not terrible, because by then I’d set up home as a blogger here on WordPress and I’d got comfortable on G+.

So now that G+ has shut down (to be fair, they did warn us) I feel sad but, again, not terrible – life moves on, there’ll be new adventures, some friendships will last and some will fizzle out and some new ones will develop, a bit like the very typically English April day we had yesterday where one minute there was hail and the next the sun was shining again, and today I saw massive black clouds earlier but now there’s glorious sunshine… Life has its ups and downs, but I know God will keep providing for me and watching over me and whatever happens, he’s never going to let me go. He got me into WordPress and G+ when I didn’t know Multiply was going to shut down. He got me to learn how to use Twitter, despite my strong reluctance, so that by the time G+ shut down I already had an alternative. Whatever happens, my heavenly dad has got it all in hand.

And now, I really must stop rambling and get on with essay preparation. I have only two weeks till the deadline, and I’ve only barely started reading!

Talk to my penguin in the meantime. His name is Quentin, he’s friendly and will give you cookies if you ask.

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