Those who pay attention to the online world will probably know that Google+ fever is sweeping the blogosphere. Everyone wants an invite to the “Facebook killer” and invites are pretty hard to come by. If you are lucky enough to have one, you can brag about being in the group early and if not, you are left wondering what is going on in there and will you ever get to be a part of it. Invites are in such demand they are even popping up for sale on ebay for as much as $100.
What is the rush and why are we all clamouring to jump on board the Google+ ship when we don’t even know what it’s all about? Well for one, we humans love to belong to groups. And what could be better than belonging to Google+, a group which is entirely based on the ability to form groups. Because Google+ is by invitation only, the boundaries are less permeable than Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and the other social networking sites; anyone can join those simply by signing up. Permeability of boundaries has been linked to group identification in numerous psychology studies. Members of groups with highly permeable boundaries have reduced ingroup identification. So a person who is on Facebook just won’t feel as passionate about being a “Facebook user” as someone who is part of Google+. Google+ users on the other hand, feel strongly about their membership and are spreading their new ingroup love, which automatically makes Google+ seem pretty cool and exclusive.
We are now willing to buy our way into a group that four days ago didn’t even exist because if there is one thing people hate, it’s being excluded. By releasing the new social networking site as invite only, Google has created something we want to be part of but most just can’t. In a review of research on social exclusion, Dewall and colleagues (2010) highlight how being left out can cause numerous behavioural and emotional problems. Social exclusion can lead to increased aggression, decrease pro-social behaviour, and even induce actual physical pain. Hopefully more invites will open up before those who are being excluded start suffering the negative effects of social exclusion. And yes, I am still waiting for my invite too.