I was surprised to see article after article (and even a website!) about the lack of women on Google+, which, if you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, is Google's most recent attempt at entering the social networking sphere. I learned soon after that apparently women have been slower to catch on to other social networking sites than men, which also surprised me. In my experience, it's always the guys I know who are more reluctant to join the latest social networking site, not the gals. Of course, like anything else, one's own individual experiences aren't necessarily indicative of larger trends, but I have to wonder just what, exactly, is different about the ways that women and men use social networking, or our respective goals with social networking.
I use social networking sites like most people would expect: to keep up with friends and acquaintances, and share articles, stories, and pictures. I rarely accept Facebook friend requests from people that I don't know, although I have a looser definition of "know" than some people. My rule of thumb when accepting friend requests from people I've never met in person is that I have to at least recognize their name, and know them either through a mutual friend, or through several online interactions. As far as initiating a Facebook "friendship," if I only know the person through the blogosphere, if I want to be "friends," I first check the number of friends they have. If it's over 1,000, I'll go ahead and send a friend request, because I assume that no one actually has that many friends or real-life acquaintances, and that they are open to being "friends" with other people they haven't actually met.
With Google+, though, much of this worrying is unnecessary. If someone you don't know well "adds" you, you don't have to "friend" them; you can just add them to a "circle" that is appropriate for your level of friendship, or your comfort in what you share with the person. You can also "follow" them like you would on Twitter. I love this option. In fact, I love Google+ a lot so far. It's not clunky like Google's Orkut (or even Facebook, sometimes), the privacy issues are transparent and easy to control, and sharing things is much more intuitive. Since I already use a ton of Google products (who doesn't, at this point?), the transition was seamless. My Picasa photos were automatically and privately imported so that I could choose which albums to share, and with whom. Messaging is as simple as clicking on the "email" link, so there's no need to check yet another inbox if you already use Gmail.
Anyway, I don't know what the reason for the gender disparity is, although there are plenty of theories outlined in the above-linked articles, mostly related to he gender disparity in technology-related fields and interest in the field. Now, while I am on the internet all the time and have a blog and an account with just about every social networking site, I don't really consider myself to be a "tech geek" or anything, so I don't understand what the deal is. I was eagerly waiting in anticipation for Google+, and was thrilled when I finally got an invite. I just wanted a Facebook replacement, honestly, because I am growing to loathe Facebook (who isn't?). And so far, it's been awesome.
Naturally, I "invited" ethecofem to join Google+, so we now have an account. If you're on Google+, add us to your circles! I'm thinking about maybe trying out this "hangout" feature over there sometime. Could be fun. And if you are not yet on Google+ and would like an invite, I'm happy to send you one. Email ethecofem[at]gmail[dot]com with your email address and I'll send one over.