There’s a reason why Google chose circles for its new Google + social graph, and it isn’t just because it’s a clever name. If you search Google’s archive of images for the phrase “social graph” every single relevant image that comes up portrays relationships as being circular.
In the screen shot above, it’s clear that we humans seem to naturally illustrate our relationships as being… rounded. We live our lives constantly juggling these relationships with friends, partners, family, and colleagues in an intricate network that is unique to us. What better way to depict these predictably random dynamics than with a shape that has absolutely no bias towards any direction or alignment – the circle.
Up until now, we’ve been forced to map these relationships within rigid digital constructs built by developers (see: me) to make it as easy as possible to manage that data as it scales into the millions of relationships.
It’s easy to lump people into classes and demographics and groups and categories because we receive (false) positive reinforcement from doing it, and quantifying these relationships by putting them into boxes makes them feel real.
You are my: [ ] Friend [ ] Family [ ] Pet [ ] Dinner
Since the first time someone drew a recognizable picture of someone else, having something we can go back to and look at and touch and say “Yeah, that person exists and we are important to each other!” has been an evolutionary significance in our development that technology hasn’t been able to properly convey quite yet. With every emerging social platform that comes around we get one step closer to translating the complexities of our relationships in ways that actually make sense, beyond being friends and followers.
If nothing else, Google + (and Circles specifically) is a reminder that our lives are ever-changing and the people we know now and will meet tomorrow don’t belong in any rigid box. If you are my friend, I appreciate my judgmental classification of you in my life just a wee bit more today than I did yesterday.