July 30, 2015
Last week, when Google announced that it would be shutting down its Google+ Photos service, some Google+ users saw that as a threat to their beloved social networking platform. Others, however, argued that it only meant that the removal of a photo service would allow Google+ to thrive as a social medium. Then, this past Monday, Google made a further announcement that it plans to separate Google+ from other Google services, including YouTube. And, again, many Google+ users simply saw that as a strategic move for the social network. But herein lies the biggest major issue with Google+: its user base is utterly, steadfastly deluded.
In an article published yesterday by Google+ early adopter and evangelist, Mike Elgan, he argues (essentially) that tech journalists are all part of this crazed collective that’s set out on destroying the social network. In it, Elgan writes: “The echo chamber tech press[…]insists on saying Google+ is being killed. Their information comes from nowhere. They made it up.” Not at all a surprising statement from someone who’s been one of the very few active users on the platform since it launched in 2011. Currently, Elgan has more than 4.6 million followers on Google+ – a much larger number than his 28,300 on Twitter; if I had that much social influence on a social networking platform, I can totally see myself buried under the great weight of self-delusion.
But outside of Elgan’s own delusion, his argument discrediting the opinions of journalists and the very real facts/statistics on Google+ users is what’s most bothersome. In his piece, Elgan argues that tech journalists suffer from “majority illusion”, the notion that a specific behavior or attribute perceivable among one’s many peers is a behavior or attribute that applies to a much more extensive network (say, society as a whole). So, for example, if I perceive that most of my friends aren’t getting shot by police, then I can be deluded into believing that this same reality applies to all of society. As Elgan observes:
“The media in general, including the tech press, is obsessed with using Twitter. And that love of Twitter is often accompanied by a disdain for Google+, for whatever reason…Most groups outside the media don’t share that particular set of social media preferences. Yet the majority illusion convinces the press that ‘everybody uses Twitter’ and that ‘nobody uses Google+.’ But what’s true in the echo chamber is not true in the world.”
Never mind the issue that many journalists are very much cognizant of the fact that Twitter is a niche social medium often used by journalists (and thereby something not used by “everybody”), Elgan fails to apply the majority illusion to Google+ users – a population so deluded that it continually disregards active user data and, instead, forces itself to believe in the mass popularity of the platform. Sure – while chief of Google+, Bradley Horowitz, admitted in blog post that the move to separate Google+ from other Google services was in no way an indication of the social platform’s decline, any logical human being not suffering from the Google+ majority illusion can recognize that the dramatic product shift is an attempt to move away from long-sustained failings.
Elgan and the entirety of Google+’s active user base all fall to the majority illusion. The reality that they need to accept is this: Google+ has and is struggling; hope that this pivot will improve user retention and engagement so that it doesn’t go away.
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