In the real world our relationships rely on proximity. We learn to make friends (or at least how to politely tolerate) the people near us: our family, our schoolmates, our neighbors, our coworkers and colleagues. Of course, many great friendships grow from this soil. We discover common interests and grow closer. We date the cute guy at work; we marry the girl-next-door.
Relationships evolve in the other direction, too. We join a club or a group. We discover the excitement of talking with people who share our passions, who never get bored or roll their eyes at the trivial details which bore our spouses, family, and coworkers. The Internet has made it easier than ever to interact with people who share our interest irrespective of proximity.
So who are our real friends? It depends on you. But don't expect a lot of overlap.
Facebook owns the social graph.
By default, Facebook entries are private and friendships reciprocal. You can share publicly but it feels like your at a party with all the people in your life, past and present. For the most part, the conversation remains at the level of cocktail party patter.
Google+ has the potential to own the interest graph.
Despite all the marketing of circles, many people tend to share publicly on Google+ and interact with strangers based on shared interests. When our friends and family are cajoled into joining, they are bored by our tech talk (or whatever passion). This is our social graph asking to be excluded from our interest graph. This is our mom rolling her eyes when we get excited about the latest API release.
We should let them go.
FB is social for the real world. But look around you in the real world and look at all the people staring into their phones. We live in the Internet age. And social on the Internet is the interest graph. Our relationships are no longer constrained by proximity.
Google+ is not going to beat Facebook at its own game. It's going to beat Facebook by changing the game. It's going to beat Facebook by understanding that people aren't using the Internet as a tool to map their existing lives. The Internet is an entirely different landscape in which we live and form new relationships.
Explore the Potential
Advice to the Google+ team. Stop selling Google+ short. Stop selling it as a social network. Give us tools to find people who share our interests. Stop focusing our attention on the people we already know and help us find people we want to know.