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Google+, Day 20: Google+ Makes 'Unfriending' More Polite

Thankfully, Google+ gives you some tools to eliminate annoying posts without removing the person entirely from your Circles.

30 Days With Google+: Day 20

Relationships on Google+ may be online, but most of them are with real people--family, friends, co-workers--that I also interact with in real life. It can ruffle feathers and get a tad uncomfortable when I drop someone from my social network, but Google+ gives me a couple options to handle removing someone from my social network in a more gentle, acceptable way.

On Facebook, the concept of 'Friending' always seemed a bit awkward from the beginning. I mean, many of the people in my Facebook social network are my friends, but many are simply acquaintances, or they are members of my family. As weird as 'Friending' everyone is, 'Unfriending' someone just seems blatantly rude. It feels like a very official, and public rebuke of my value as a human being.

With Google+ I have three options at my disposal that I can use instead of just removing someone from my Circles and possibly creating unnecessary drama. I can mute an individual post, place the individual into a "black hole" Circle, or ignore the user.

Mute a Post

If you generally don't mind someone, but they post something annoying that seems to get a lot of comments, and shares and seems to hog your Stream it can be frustrating. If you don't believe me, just try adding Robert Scoble to your Circles and you can experience firsthand the impact it can have on your Stream when a post gets tons of comments.

I like Robert Scoble, or I wouldn't have him in my Circles in the first place. But, I don't agree with everything he posts, and even when I do agree, I don't want his posts hogging my Stream. Rather than remove him from my Circles, though, I can click the drop-down arrow at the upper-right of the offending post and click "Mute this post" to simply remove the post from my Stream.

The "Black Hole" Circle

What if I don't really want to read anything that someone posts, but I don't want to offend them by removing them from my Circles entirely? Perhaps an annoying co-worker, or my Tea Party uncle who likes to spam me with moronic assertions, and fantastic myths about the Obama administration that any 10-second search on Snopes.com or FactCheck.org would prove utterly baseless.

Thankfully on Google+ the people in my Circles can see that I have them in a Circle--but they can't see what the Circle is called, or have any insight into how or why or if I ever use that Circle. I can create a "black hole" Circle that gives the illusion that someone is still part of my social network while effectively removing them at the same time. So, I can put my uncle in a Circle called "Tea Party wackos" and just never bother looking at the Stream from the Circle.

The "black hole" Circle concept isn't perfect. If I never share any of my posts with my "Tea Party wackos" Circle, my uncle will experience an awkward silence from me. He may wonder whether I am just not very active on Google+, or he might put two and two together and figure out that I put him in a "black hole" Circle.

Ignore a User

One possible solution to the "black hole" problem would be to make sure that any time I share something with my "Family" Circle, I remember to also include my "Tea Party wackos" Circle so my uncle will still be in my loop without me having to be in his.

Another option would be to Ignore a user like my uncle. If I Ignore him, he is removed from my "People who have added you", and I will no longer receive content from him in my Stream , or receive any notifications when he mentions me in a post. He'll be able to see what I post, but for all intents and purposes he won't exist on my incoming Stream.

Well, mostly. Google explains, "An ignored person will still be able to comment on your public posts, tag you in photos, and add you to circles. You'll still receive notifications when an ignored person tags you in a photo. In addition, people you've ignored may appear as a suggestion again at a later time."

Still, it is better than Blocking him or removing him from my Circles because it is less overtly confrontational. Thanksgiving with the family will be much less tense as long as I pretend to have read some of his tripe--or just steer the conversation to how bad the Detroit Lions are playing.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With the iPad

Day 19: Sharing Photos and Videos in Google+

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