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It’s extremely satisfying having just 20 friends on the new Google+.

Twenty simple, comprehensible, there-from-the-start friends. I know their first and last names by heart. To add their birthdays and e-mail addresses to my memory bank would require only a short afternoon with flashcards.

Twenty friends don’t exceed anyone’s capacity for caring. And because they’re so few, these relatively arbitrary 20 nonetheless appear to be of a far higher quality than hundreds of friends could ever be — and more real, by far, than the hundreds and even thousands of friends many now have on Facebook, that other social network.


The dominant social networks are fantasy games built around rigged avatars, outright fictions and a silent — and often unconscious — agreement among players that the game and its somewhat creaky conceits influence the real world. This pact is what distinguishes Facebook and Twitter from other fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons and L.A. Noire. And because of this pact, and because so many hundreds of millions of people participate in this pact, Facebook and Twitter do have meaning and significance in the real world. Just as paper money is valuable because people who use it believe it’s valuable, Facebook and Twitter — right this minute — have value entirely because a whole continent’s worth of people believe they have value. So many players have invested so much trust in these games that they can’t afford not to believe they’re paying off.

Everyone — especially people at Google — knows this perception and pact can change on a dime, as it did with Friendster and MySpace, which once boomed and are now social ghost towns.


The real world is filled with ruins of spaces that once drew hopeful hordes. Cyberspace is, too, even though it’s unthinkable now to imagine that anyone might ever enter “twitter.com” into a Web browser and encounter “page not found.”


The word “real” — that’s a run at the reality trick. I toyed with the idea of taking the site at its word, and keeping things real on Google+, by only befriending people whom I would, say, have to my house. But that’s not the Web way. Already, my “real” friends include people I’ve barely met.


I didn’t want to console Facebook that all it was doing was creating an online map to offline relationships. I wanted Facebook to ownthat it was a massive fantasia — arguably a fraud — and that this note was an invitation to play a very new and very strange game, whose contours, years later, we are only beginning to fathom.


«The confidence game at Google+»artigo de Virginia Heffernan no Opinionator, blog do the new york timesvale a pena ler.