Do I Really Have to Set Up Yet Another Social Network?

My inbox is blowing up with email notifications from Google+. I launched Gmail this morning and the damn thing looked like it had been duck-raped by notifications about new followers and new comments on Google+. Who cares‽

Google briefly opened up the invitation floodgates last night and new users came pouring into its newborn social service, Google+. This morning, before I turned off email notifications, my inbox looked something like this:

Do I Really Have to Set Up Yet Another Social Network?S

It's a little overwhelming. And quite frankly, it can make you just want to ignore the whole thing. Or at least it did me! But on the other hand, social networks are an investment, and the time you put into setting them up will pay off down the road. And all those emails? They're people. They're relationships. And moreover, they're a fresh start. Take a minute to organize them before it's too late.

Consider Facebook. Facebook has changed its privacy settings so many times that Friend Lists that let you control who sees what are essential if you want to have even a modicum of privacy. Yet if you're heavily invested in Facebook, you likely have already amassed too many friends there to make it worth your time to go back and re-organize them all.

Google+ is a blank slate. You can begin anew, you don't have to be burdened by the legacy of a social network that you set up before you really understood what you were doing. This time, take the time to organize your contacts into meaningful Circles from the get-go, and suddenly you can have a usable social network again that lets you share things publicly with the whole electronet, and privately with just the people who you want to see them.

The cool thing about Google+ is that you don't have to reciprocate somebody's affection for you. Like Twitter, relationships can be asynchronous. On Facebook, we have to mutually agree to be "friends" in order to see each others accounts. One person sends a friend request; another accepts or declines it. On Twitter both parties don't have to do this little dance. Google+ is much the same.

You're going to get a lot of notifications that people are sharing with you. Don't sweat it. You can either add them to a circle, or not. Even if you don't, they will still be able to see all of your public updates. Likewise, you will even be able to see their updates, at whatever level they've decided to share with you, via the Incoming stream.

But then there are your friends and, eventually, family. Facebook started out as a network for college students, and when it opened to everyone, all the sudden lots of people had a mom problem. That is, all the sudden your mom could see all those photos of you doing kegstands and status updates asking if anyone knew where to score weed in Cambridge on a Thursday morning.

Nip that shit in the bud by setting up a bunch circles now, and rigorously organizing people to them as they come in. That way, your mom will only ever see your Family updates, your friends in real life will only ever see your address when you post a party invitation, and your tech nerd friends will be the only ones who see your puzzling quacking about iOS updates.

Oh, and one more tip? Go to your profile, click on the button to edit it, click on your circles, and uncheck the box that says "Show People in my Circles." That way nobody has to know you've snubbed them by not sharing back.