The acknowledgment “+1” (Google’s version of “Like”) has always helped boost post visibility within the Google+ social network — it’s one of the many parts of the equation that make posts hit the What’s Hot section, for instance. But What’s Hot can be removed from a user’s individual stream. This isn’t immediately obvious for a new feature Google+ introduced yesterday, which amplifies any posts people are “plussing” by sharing them into your stream, whether you follow the people who originally posted them or not.
This feature is great if you mostly follow a homogeneous group of people — these people are in your industry and they generally have the same values, so you’re going to see a lot of the sort of thing you would like. The problem is that we don’t really live in a world where our social circles are composed of mostly people like ourselves. Diversity — the diversity that makes the web great — brings us in touch with people who have very different ideas, professions, values, and uses for a social network.
Imagine you follow me. You find my content interesting. What I post publicly is safe for work and tries really hard to abide by the Google+ Content Policy Guidelines. I seem like a decent person. We might not share the exact same values — you would never write a review about a vibrator, for instance — but you are confident that I will always make sensible choices about what images I use in the posts I set free into your stream.
Then, one day, you’re at work and suddenly — +A.V. Flox and two others +1’d this:
The way I distribute content, you see, is very different than the way that I consume it. While Google+ has a policy against porn, porn exists on Google+ and I spend a lot of time looking at it — because I am curious about how Google+ defines pornography, because I am interested in trends in types of pornography over time, and because I like porn.
In engaging this content, I tend to plus things that I feel challenge “I know it when I see it” notions of obscenity, in futile hope that so doing will bring it to Google’s attention and help them see how useless their Sexually Explicit Material policy is. But I also plus things that turn me on, so if you saw the cunnilingus shot above on your stream this morning, be glad it wasn’t a shot depicting quadruple anal penetration.
You probably think I’m kidding.
Well, you’ll never know. Because I’m going to show you how to make it so you don’t broadcast the posts you are plussing on Google+.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Go to your settings. These are stashed in the Home navigation column on the left of your screen:
2. Scroll through all kinds of things on the Settings page until you are near the botton, above Your Circle management and Accessibility options. This is where you’ll find Apps & activities. (Really, you can just do a control- or command-F and save yourself the grief. I have no idea why they decided to stash this setting here. Maybe a hat tip to Facebook’s labyrinthine user settings?) Anyway, this is what you want:
3. You are going to arrive at a page for managing your apps. This is not the droid you’re looking for. You want to go from here to the Google settings, so click on the Google tab on the top nav:
That will take you here.
4. Select who you want to share your plusses with. If you want them to be visible only to you, select this:
Otherwise, you can set them to a specific circle. The default is Extended Circles, meaning that if you don’t change this, people you have circled and people they have circled might see your plusses in their streams.
Settings should not be this complex, but at least there is a way to undo this situation. Not that the feature is not a good idea — I’m enjoying receiving all kinds of content that people are plussing, but not everyone has a child-free existence or job that enables them to look at anything, anytime.
Until Google+ does something about adult content (something more like Twitter where you can opt-in and less like Facebook where even art and science get yanked rather capriciously), we’re going to be needing to pay a lot more attention to our controls for content consumption and distribution.
Google! Please make it easier for adults to be adults on your properties!