Which is worse – the notification alert that lures you back into Google+ because someone is circling you, mentioning you, or interacting with a post or comment of yours – or – the dull, grey notification bar with a big zero on it, reminding you that nobody is circling you, mentioning you, or interacting with a post or comment of yours?
The lure of notifications
Notifications can be hard to ignore, but they are terrible distractions. They take away something more important than time – they take away attention.
Paying attention to something, even for a split second, has a lingering effect – I wonder what that was? Maybe somebody liked my witty comment on that post from this morning? Maybe Suzi just joined Google+ and circled me. Or maybe someone shared that post I worked so hard to craft with just the right words.
All of this distracts from your task at hand, whatever that may be. It’s for this reason that a long time ago I shut off my email notifications for good. I haven’t looked back on that one yet, and don’t anticipate doing so.
The reach of Google+ notifications
What’s a little different about notifications on Google+ is that the controls are a bit more limited. Sure, you can turn off email notifications as well as notifications to your phone if you’re using the mobile client. But, that little box in the upper right hand corner of your web browser gives no quarter. Even when you’re not on the Google+ page, it’s still there – across all Google products – web, gmail, calendar, docs, photos, reader, and more!
That’s the significant difference of Google+ as a new communications platform for those of us who are already users of these other products (and there are at least about 200 million of us). And it’s in this way that I think Google+ will infiltrate our daily workflow in a way that other platforms like Facebook or Twitter didn’t and couldn’t. This thought resonates with another idea that is worth some consideration – that social media will at some point cease to exist as a standalone product or platform and simply become a feature of computing in the future. That’s getting a little ahead of ourselves, but you get the idea.
There may be some respite for the weary
There is a browser extension (Hide Google+ Notification) that promises to remove the notification from the global Google header toolbar for all pages except Google+ itself, but it’s only for Chrome users. Maybe more will follow for other browsers, or maybe Google will offer this as a configuration option (don’t hold your breath). But for now, you may need to avoid Google properties if you don’t want to be distracted by the notifications. Of course, this may prove to be about as easy as avoiding all discussion of your favorite TV show until you watch the recording when you get home.
The immediacy of the social web
The pace of social media is different. And for all of the talk about Google+ competing with Facebook, it also has some of the real-time feel of Twitter. This may increase as newer users are drawn into this pace by the notification bar, and continue to up the pace overall. Tempering all that activity with circles will surely be a minimum requirement over time.