Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One of the most common questions I've heard about Google+ is how to post on someone's "wall" or what the equivalent...

One of the most common questions I've heard about Google+ is how to post on someone's "wall" or what the equivalent of that is. This post by a Pandora employee answers that question thoroughly, but in brief: you can't, the only person who can post content on your profile page is you, and this is by design and indicative of Google+ being a more grown-up social network. Do you really need the attention of posting that inside joke to your friend's "wall" for all your mutual friends to see?

Originally shared by Alida Brandenburg

"But where’s the wall?"

I think this is one of the most common questions new Google+ users ask me (and interestingly, it points to one of the most telling design qualities of Google+, yet it has somehow been overlooked in all of the commentary I’ve read about the site- but we’ll get to that). The omission of a public, personalized bulletin board where others can sound off is noticeably absent from the social site. I think this is a surprise for most, partly because they are so accustomed to the Facebook/Myspace UI, partly because a wall-like interface seems inherently social. You see what I do, I see what you do. I can laugh about the jab you made at our friend’s picture when I see the comment preview on your wall, you can RSVP to the same event I RSVPed to when you notice it pop up on my wall. It helps us stay connected, right?

And I’ll admit that I felt a little lost without it at first, too. “But now where do I publicly leave an ambiguous note for my best friend with some obscure reference that only she and I will get ( ‘China Town, greased-up monkeys, and the Footloose soundtrack- never again, AMIRITE? lol lol’ ), but that will make us sound mysterious and cool enough that you will want in on our fun?” Without a wall, it initially felt closed off (walled-off, if you will, rofl rofl), or even sterile.

But if the inspiration for the Facebook wall drew on white boards and cork boards of college dorm room doors, its absence from Google+ is yet another hallmark of Google+’s maturity as an “all grown up” social networking site.

And if you think about it, this shift in technology is a natural, strategic parallel to how we develop as individuals. Things that were once tolerable or even appealing in college no longer are as full-fledged adults. Sharing a single 12x12 room with three other people when you’re eighteen? Fun, exciting, camaraderie! Doing the same when you’re 38? Unthinkable. We want privacy!

Spreading gossip around and openly airing out your dirty laundry to anyone on your dorm floor who will listen? Par the course. (Genna deserved it, that bitch! Let’s post it all over her Facebook wall.) Broadcasting to even your acquaintances when you’re brokenhearted that Genna slept with your husband ten years later? Okay, maybe Genna still deserves it, but you spreading the news all over town is not as likely as it once was. It is considered more appropriate to deal with the situation behind closed doors, one-on-one with honest, clear communication.

When you’re in the throes of young adulthood, the public projection of your identity- particularly to your peers- is a means of forming your identity. You throw yourself out there and seek validation in return, whittling yourself based on this feedback and how you feel about it, be it positive or negative. The Facebook wall feature, for example, lends itself very well to this. Everyone can track your detailed activity and comment on it and share with others. Our ego is fed. burp

Now, obviously the ego still plays a role in our behavior when we’re older (see my Google+-related post on it here:, but with our more formative years behind us, the way we engage with the world shifts to a less “look-at me!”-centric focus, to a more carefully crafted and selective presentation.

Because the fact is, as we mature, we have more at stake. Our careers are on the line, our relationships are increasingly meaningful, and people are much less forgiving of missteps. No longer can inappropriateness be dismissed with a simple, “Oh, he's young. He's just having fun. He’ll learn.”

So shouldn’t our social networking sites likewise mature to reflect this progression of values and personal presentation?

In a recent discussion we were having, my friend Patrice Speed succinctly summed up this evolution of social networking and the way it parallels our development as individuals:

“I feel like the launch of different social networks have coincided with where I'm at in my life. Hyperreal email lists existed when I was in Jr. High/ High School and I got to know a huge circle of people in the bay area through that online community. LJ came about when I was in college and had a lot to say and posts to share about my life with my peers. Friendster came about mid-way through college and helped me connect with an expanding circle of people in my life, both through school and social without having to post so many "teen angst" blogs like I did on LJ. Then there was Myspace as I hit my stride at 21 and wanted to meet new people through social networks and found myself single for the first time since High School. It functioned great for that. Facebook and LinkedIn came later when I was starting to tone it down a bit and had started my career and needed a more professional platform. In a lot of ways I've ‘grown up online’ from my first dial-up aol chat rooms at age 11/12 to where I'm at now as an adult.”

As someone who likewise grew up online, it's for these reasons that I’m now pleased that there is no “wall” equivalent on Google+. More specifically it promotes:

1. Privacy

When people visit my profile, they only see the things I chose to post. I’m the only one who can post content on there (other than comments on my posts, obviously, but even that can be filtered), and people visiting my page can’t use it to track my activity on other areas of the site (e.g. comments I left on someone else’s photo that I might want to keep private).

E.g.: “Hey, Alida! Met you at the "Ace-of-Base-FOREVER" group meet-up this past weekend and wanted to post on your wall to say what's up!. Was wondering how you feel about the dark undertones of “All That She Wants” and how you think this is a reflection of gender views in society. See you at the concert?” (jk jk I have no shame about my love of Ace of Base and would have no problem with people posting on my page about my zeal for the epic Swedish pop dance-music group.)

2. Control of Content/Focus of Content

Similar to the privacy advantage, but there is nuanced distinction. Once again, I control the content posted on my profile. This allows for a more focused stream of information (both on my profile and on the site overall) and it prevents my posts from getting mixed in and lost amid a bevy of trivial data or content other people choose to post on my page- content which may or may not be relevant to me, my circles, or what I want my profile to feature.

E.g.: “Hey, Alida! Check out this funny cat link I am now posting on your page that is otherwise devoted exclusively to very srs Pandora bsns. SO FUNNIES.”

3. Cuts Down on Spam

Again, because I’m the only one who controls what is posted on my profile, people can’t post spam or blatant self-promotions (BSP’s) on my page.

E.g.: “Hey, Alida! Be sure to come to the hottest club event this Saturday at Ruby DB’s! RSVP before Friday for guest list and bottle service!”

I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons to laud the absence of a wall-like feature, but those are the ones that stand out most to me thus far. (What other positives are there? What about the negatives?) Ironically, it turns out that the removal of walls helps me feel more secure. So while at first it felt a little desolate on here without it, I’m starting to really enjoy the maturity it encourages. Don't know about all of you, but I think I like these big-kid shoes.

(Photo cred:

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