Follow The White Rabbit
I first came to Google Plus when it was available by invitation only, and just like many others I didn’t know exactly what to expect it was all so new. What I did know already back then was that it was going to change everything… and on that front alone Google Plus hasn’t disappointed.
For almost a year, I was too shy to speak up, I lurked and got excited over every little thing Google did with the platform. I was here when the first hangout went live and when communities were revealed. I watched G+ transform and become what it is today, turn into a place where everyone can fit in, everyone can contribute and everyone matters. From the very beginning it was clear to me that this was not going to be just another social network, but a first true social platform, the kind of platform we were all waiting for and needed for a very long time.
It took me a while to find my footing and although I have been into fitness and an active lifestyle for over ten years I didn’t at first realize this was something anyone would want to hear about. Only when I started sharing my own routines and they were well-received did it suddenly occur to me that what I do and what I know has value and can be useful to someone. I found my voice on Google Plus and it helped me understand what it is I wanted to do all this time: I want to make fitness accessible for people just like me, people who struggle with exercise, people who can’t or don’t feel comfortable asking for help, people who just don’t know where to start and what to expect. I was there once myself and someone did it for me, showed me the ropes and helped me realize that I can be more, do it through training and hard work. It’s never been easy for me and I doubt it is ever easy for anyone out there. I see it as my way of giving back, making a difference in my own way, that’s something I never thought I’d ever be able to do. Yet, here I am.
To be honest, I am not one of the social types who can get along easily with other people. I am more comfortable with tech, in front of a computer working with code rather than talking to a real person, so social is something I didn’t do well before Google Plus came along and I’ve been online since 1996 so you understand what a huge step it was for me. I did try, for a while, before Google+ came along to do it with Facebook. There was no alternative back then, really. To my surprise I found out that it was not the place for new connections nor was it the place to focus on creating value. Up to this day it still remains a closed network, the place for maintaining your old friendships and keeping in touch with family and friends you already have. So basically, Facebook is the network that is designed to keep you in the past. After having lots of issues and troubles with Facebook and its policies I left and never looked back. I actually waited several years for Google to open its platform to people like me, people who needed a real social network with potential for personal and professional growth and ability to make new connections and even friends. For someone like me who moved from place to place feeling alienated everywhere I went it was like finally reaching an oasis in the dessert.
My adventure truly started here about a year ago around the time when I set up the first and the original Fitness community on the platform, dedicated to health and fitness and a better quality of life while being active. I also began posting my training routines and fitness advice, and, although I thought that this is going to be an unpopular move, I did it anyway. This is something I had to do because I strongly believe in it. Getting off the couch and getting into training saved my life. I have firsthand experience of obesity, depression and the health issues that come with the two, I understand how difficult the journey is and I can relate to anyone who is just beginning theirs.
The platform has an inherent symmetry in the way we connect. It encourages you to be authentic because that’s the only way you can really connect with people and because it rewards authenticity and value with greater visibility and greater trust, it reinforces it in a very positive manner in everyone who invests themselves in it. This is, perhaps, the greatest achievement on the web since the internet was created. We used to relish the anonymity the internet provided us with, say whatever we felt like at any time without thinking too much about it, but Google made us stand by our name and not be afraid to put it next to what we say. It’s new and it’s scary but it is the future, the time for anonymity and roleplaying has passed. I think the future of the web lies in authenticity and value and these are the two qualities that are encouraged on Google Plus, the people and the connections made in the platform. The web and the offline RL are slowly becoming one, there is no “real life” kind of distinction anymore, not here, it’s all real and it’s all part of who you are online and offline. If you are not out of your shell in G+ by now, you very soon will be. Google Plus and its users help you find what you are truly about whether you want it to happen or not.
I have learned more being on G+ in the past year than I have all the previous years I spent being online, and not just about fitness but about myself, too. You meet people and they change you, every thread is a new opportunity to learn and grow whether you wrote it or contributed to someone else’s work. No matter what you do here, it’ll affect and change you.
Another thing that stands out more and more in here is authorship and the importance of the original source. This is recent and I can feel it in here, especially since I have had a number of my workouts, programs and other inforgraphics gone viral not just here but on websites like 9GAG and Imgur. The web used to be a place where anything went, it never used to be important where you got something from or who the original author of an article or a piece of artwork was. It is now, and I believe Google is responsible for this shift of perspective. I doubt there is anyone around, including myself, who isn’t guilty of re-posting or sharing an image that did not belong to them without giving credit to the owner. It never used to matter but it does now.
Credit is important, giving it is vital for the internet to move forward because very often that is all that encourages people to work and produce quality content. Without it, what is there to encourage the creator to keep on working? Things don’t just happen, there is a person behind every photo, every graph and illustration who deserves to be mentioned for their hard work. This is something so basic and yet before Google Plus it was not relevant and was often ignored and it still is on networks with old-fashioned values like Facebook (especially its acquired app Instagram) and Pinterest. It’s different on Google Plus, though. Here you very soon learn that this kind of behavior is not going to get you very far. The radical transparency that Google Plus creates makes each of us accountable for our actions and that is both new on the web and very welcome in terms of the responsibility we ought to have. We are at our best when we deal with people we know and feel we can trust them. I think this is something that was missing on the web from the very beginning and its effects, now, are very noticeable.
Google+ really isn’t yet another social network, it’s the Social Network and it’s the future of the social web, it will change the world and I am proud to be part of it. My life wouldn’t have been the same if I didn’t follow the white rabbit down that rabbit hole and ended up here, in Google’s Wonderland where anything is possible. And although I took my time with getting active here, you are never truly late to the party on Google Plus, there is always one happening and you are always welcome to join one (or ten) and you’ll be very welcome there.
Follow the white rabbit, the journey will take your breath away and you’ll never want to go back.
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Thank you for hosting me, +Mervik Haums
...and thank you for asking me to do this. This is something I wanted to say for a long time. #google #googleplus #gplusstory