I've always been something of a drifter, flitting from one group to another, from one place to another without very much attachment, in both my digital life and my IRL connections. It's hard to put in the effort when you lack a connection, and I can count on one hand the places I've ever truly felt a sense of belonging: the bar I sang karaoke at in Waco, the lounge at the college TV station when I was in college, Walt Disney World, and Google+.
Make all the jokes you want about Google's "failed" social network, but Google+ will forever hold a special place in my heart. Not only was Google+ the first social platform I actively reached out to others on, the first digital space where I actually built friendships outside school or work, but Google+ was where I was noticed and hired for Android Central. It was where I honed my voice and where I gained technological perspectives I never could IRL.
Even beyond the tech circles and communities, Google+ was where I met so many incredible people from around the world. I met folks from the Philippines and India, from across Europe and North America, and each one had their own passions. The gardening communities were full of bounty (and bug control solutions); the crafting circles made me want to break out the crochet needles, and don't get me started on the food!
Google+ has been dead for over a year, but you wouldn't know it on Friday night. Derek Ross put out the call to G+ alums and much like G+ itself, it was an intimate Hangouts Meet that went long into the night with folks and made me laugh harder than I have in months.
While I'd only met maybe half the participants beforehand, that didn't stop any of us from getting into deep conversations about philosophy, human nature, and liquor. It was a night of nostalgia and nerdiness that felt utterly comfortable, and in a year where chaos slaps us in the face every day, it was more cathartic than an afternoon in the Magic Kingdom. (It also made me miss BABBQ more than ever, since that's where I'd get to hug all the nerds I met on G+.)
Even though we've all moved on to different networks, different jobs, different places, we could still come together just as easily as we could years ago. Getting into these Hangouts and happy hours feels like walking to the bar on karaoke night, and I need to do them more often. Especially since I have absolutely no idea the next time I'll be able to safely walk into a bar and sing on karaoke night.
Around the Android world:
- I've been on the Android 11 Beta for Pixel 4a since it came out on the 25th and I was one of the unlucky few to get the Wi-Fi bug. This is why even if Betas are usually fine, you should only do them if you don't mind either factory resetting the phone should something go wrong.
- Other than the beta bug, I am still very much loving the Pixel 4a, and while I get that people will always lust after the newer, fancier phone, the only things I find myself missing are wireless charging and a waterproof rating (because I live in Florida and rain storms can pop up very, very fast).
- The OnePlus Clover is an interesting budget phone, but I think it's going to get lost in the $200 price bracket amid a sea of Motorolas and Samsungs.
- The Chromebook shortage has gotten ridiculously bad in the last three weeks and it's going to take months for supply to start catching up to the overwhelming demand we've seen this year. Which is a shame because there were some really great Chromebooks that debuted this summer at excellent price points, but they sell out the instant
- My 2015 NVIDIA Shield once again reaffirmed its status as the longest-supported Android device this week, and I still love mine and use it every single day.
- The Surface Duo looks very interesting but I'm still more interested in foldables like the Galaxy Z Flip 2 that will fit in my small pockets better.
Now it's back to Disney music, decade-old anime — I've rewatched most of my recent favorites so I'm digging back through FUNimation's catalog now — and trying not to think about what else 2020 can take from us in the next four months.
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Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.