I’ve been rethinking the value of a centralised and hosted social network like Facebook and Google+ for personal sharing lately. Maybe the kids are on to something with messaging apps as their main way to share stuff with each other? I have this sense that networks like Facebook and Google+ (although Google+ is a little odd) could be intermediary steps towards something different.

For a while, a distributed social network seemed to be the way to go but Diaspora didn’t gain much traction at all. The large networks have hug appeal because of the network effect but the flip side is a degree of abuse we have come to accept in the form of personalised marketing and increasingly public privacy settings. Facebook is rapidly becoming a next generation MySpace with more and more “sponsored stories” in my News Feed. I still really like Google+, it is pretty clean and there are no ads (yet) but it still lacks meaningful personal sharing with friends and family so I treat it more like Twitter.

I’ve been using Path more often and although almost none of my friends and family are using it with any degree of reliability (or at all), I’m enjoying the interaction with a couple people who are using it and that interaction has me thinking that until my day to day friends and family use Path (if ever), Path could well be more of the network where I make new friends. Path being mobile and beautifully designed makes it an easy choice to share stuff and engage, even if the extent of my engagement is pretty limited.

Maybe it’s a phase I am going through at the moment (a safe guess, I do this periodically) but I find myself sharing less on Facebook (at one point I was sharing pretty actively with friends and family, as opposed to publicly). I use Google+ relatively often and at least as often as Facebook. I also use Google+ Photos as my primary photo backup and sharing resource so there’s that.

Twitter still isn’t a social network for personal stuff for me, so much, but the idea of focusing on Twitter for general stuff appeals to me. Certainly, I think I am finally starting to appreciate Twitter’s relative simplicity after about 6.5 years even as it starts to become more Facebook News Feed like.

For now, I like the idea of a relatively lightweight, mobile social layer for personal sharing. I started thinking about iCloud even being that social layer for me but being Mac/iOS specific is pretty limiting. That being said, Path is limited to iOS, Android and Windows Phone (I think). Both iCloud and Path would need to be used in conjunction with Facebook for the time being to have value from the perspective of the majority of my connected friends and family so wondering why to bother with anything other than Facebook happens frequently too.

This is all pretty convoluted and probably a lot more complicated that it should be. That, in itself, is a sign that simplification is much needed and the logical choice would be to just cut back on everything but Facebook and Twitter. But is placing even more reliance on Facebook such a good idea? I guess the same thing applies to Google+, Path or anything I don’t really have much control over. Here comes that circular ride again. Ugh!

This is beginning to feel like a grand social experiment in a really big and colourful maze. There could even be a big button somewhere which we can press to be fed.