Don't be shy!

Millions of people are on Google+, but not getting much out of it. Why? They're shy.

Most people on Google+ have never posted anything publicly, commented, participated in a hangout, posted pictures of themselves or their lives or blocked anyone. Yet these are the very things that make Google+ enriching and enjoyable.

Here's the problem: Google+ is massively powerful.

On Twitter, everyone feels comfortable posting anything. I just searched Twitterfall for the word "dream," and up came these tweets:

"I had a dream i guess it was just a dream tho"

"Dream a little dream of me."

"I wonder what that dream meant :/ lmaooo"

And a thousand others posted within the span of a minute or so.

Posting on Twitter is utterly without consequence. Nobody is paying much attention. A tweet is just a needle in a haystack. People tweet like it's a bodily function, and feel no pressure or embarrassment. A tweet is there for a second for the minority of followers who happen to be looking at Twitter, then it's gone forever.

On Facebook, people feel pretty comfortable engaging, too. It's mostly just family and friends. And EdgeRank will prevent most people from seeing it anyway.

But something about Google+ gives people stage fright. That something is: power.

When you post something publicly, it's indexed and placed on the public Internet. When you comment, your comment will be "judged" by a lot of smart people. Doing your first hangout is like public speaking. Posting pictures feels exposing. And blocking people feels rude.

That's why Google+ is "dominated" by journalist, celebrities, writers, musicians, bloggers and others who are used to being "out there," living and thinking in public.

And that's the key to overcoming Google+ shyness: Understand that it's simply a matter of acclimation. Just do it, as the Nike ads say, and your shyness will soon fall away.

Here's my advice to everyone on how to overcome Google+ stage fright:

Public posting: Start by sharing other people's posts publicly (like this one). When you feel more comfortable, add comments to those shares. Eventually, graduate up to posting things publicly from scratch. Why post publicly? You won't know until you try it!

Commenting: You don't have to become the Debate Club president to comment. Just do it. Remember that your comment can later be edited or deleted. Just be yourself, speak your mind. And if anyone attacks you or makes you feel lousy, block them (see below).

Hangouts: Ah, now we get to the truly hard thing for shy people to do. Here's the secret to becoming acclimated to Hangouts: Be a lurker. That's right. Join or start hangouts, and turn off both your mic and your camera. Other people in the hangout will see a black screen and a red symbol indicating a muted mic. You can see and hear them, but they can't see or hear you. It's OK! Nobody minds. By lurking, you'll get to see how friendly, supportive, interesting and fun hangouts are. Eventually, you'll want to turn on your mic and your camera. But only when you're ready. UPDATE: +Amanda Blain has a great addition to this advice: If you do turn off mic and camera, at least communicate via chat:

Pictures: You don't have to post beauty shots or personally exposing pictures. Take a picture of anything with your camera phone -- your food, your dog, your workplace, or anything at all. Of course, you don't have to post pictures. But you shouldn't be avoiding it because of shyness. Pictures are fun, and people like seeing them.

Blocking: Blocking people is one of the secrets to a great Google+ experience. And it's NOT rude to block someone. Think of your stream as a party in your home. Everyone there is by invitation only -- people are by default invited. Blocking is merely not inviting them to future parties. Block for any reason -- because people are rude, because they spam, because they're negative. Any reason is a good reason. Why? Because you're only going to interact with fewer than 1% of the people on Google+ anyway. Blocking and circling are the two controls you have on who those people are. Use them!

I hope this advice is helpful. But ultimately, there's no substitute for just doing it. Post! Comment! Hangout! Share pictures! Block!

Yes, Google+ is powerful, and that can be scary. But once you get into it, power = awesome.

Pic props to TriStar Pictures
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