From the early days of the internet I always saw the goal as a type of virtual reality that allowed the agglomeration effect of cities to be felt on a global scale. For a heavy reader and lifetime hater of synchronous communication, like myself, even the old newsgroups and bulletin boards gave that feel. Obviously, however, they were the geek niche’s of geek niches.
The World Wide Web opened things up in a revolutionary way. However, its still didn’t quite seem to do it. The relationships that are so central to what human being are and what we as a species can do were missing.
Enter social media. Facebook bridged a lot of that gap, creating a space that map tightly enough to real world social networks that true friendships could be forged.
There are people I know on Facebook whom I have never spoken to in real life, much less been in the same physical room. There are some whom I knew primarily through social media and then finally meeting them in real life was seamless. They were exactly who I imagined them to be.
And of course, there are old friends with whom Facebook keeps the relationship alive and fresh.
One place where Facebook just doesn’t seem to work at all is working relationships. Those are still dominated by physical meetings, emails and interestingly enough, Gchat.
In part this is because, like most people I am reluctant to friend folks with whom I have a purely working relationship. Strangers I don’t mind at all. But, people who address me as Professor Smith, that’s a bit of a different matter.
The circles and the twitter like nature of Google+ helps with that significantly. The whole world can follow you public persona. Your colleagues your work persona and your friends can see the part of you that makes the word “friend” special.
Perhaps just as importantly its completely integrated into your work environment. For many people “going to work” starts with opening Microsoft Outlook. Your day is defined around your meetings and your email. Much of the rest of what you do probably is accomplished with a web browser, Excel, Powerpoint, Word and some specialty program related to your exact job.
From all of that Facebook is a distraction. You go to Facebook and away from work. With Google+ its built in. The black bar ties it all together. I can’t quite explain why that seems to make a difference but it seems to make all the difference in the world. Something about switching mental modes perhaps.
But, just as it made sense to Gchat a colleague about something from your email but not as much sense to Facebook message them, it seems much more natural to invite a few coworkers to an impromptu hangout – Google+’s group video chat – to discuss an idea than to Skype them.
This brings the concept of the virtual office much closer to reality.