On Gmail and Google+: the great contact fiasco

Google, you don’t seem to understand the importance of contacts, so I’m going to try and explain why people are so upset about your attempt this week to merge my personal contacts with my Google+ circles.

First, I want to take a minute and redefine “friend” in 2014. For the sake of clarity and so we don’t confuse it with any term already out there, I’m going to call this new definition a VIP, just because there isn’t currently any social media platform using this moniker.

A VIP is a person who you usually have a relationship in the offline world. A close family member, work colleague, fellow parent at your child’s school, and acquaintances you’ve met and bonded with in some fashion (dare I say friends?)  A VIP is a person that you also communicate with outside of your online social networks, directly, via phone or email or smoke signals.

Here’s what a VIP is not. A VIP is not (necessarily) a Facebook Friend, a Twitter Follower, a Yelp Fan, a LinkedIn Contact or a Google+ Circled user. Sure, a few of your VIPs may be on these networks, but the relationship you have with them is more than that.

So if they’re not on the social networks, where is the relationship with these VIPs kept? In the user’s personal contacts. Synced up with their email and their phone contacts for greater ease. I keep all my VIP’s contact information in my Google account. Having it my main email account on Gmail synced with my phone contacts is a wonderful feature and I enjoy managing my VIPs in Google Contacts.

Just to be clear: if I were ever to lose my Google account for any reason, this is the loss that would affect me the most.

So Google, when you nonchalantly decide to add all my Google+ Circles to my Gmail contact list, my first response is anger. My second is genuine surprise that you don’t understand the difference between the VIPs in my contact list and the people who I only know very loosely in my Circles. It’s not that I don’t like these people, but the relationship with them is so very different than the relationship I have with the VIPs in my contact list. I really don’t want them in my contact list because I don’t need their name to pop up every time I try to write an email or make a phone call.

Finally, what you’re forcing me to do is to unCircle all my Google+ connections in order to get them out of my VIP contact list. Which I think is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve with this new feature.

Your move.
Real Friendship

Real Friendship

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