Psychology of Google HangoutsThis article explores how we can gain new perspectives through using Google+, as we interact with people within a global community. To do so, we will consider Multiple Perspectives and dynamics within Google+ using the analogy of a ‘Silent Disco’.







Google Hangouts are a new form of communication that combines both group chat and video calls. If you would like to know more about them then check out this link: Google Hangouts

When considering the psychology of Google Hangouts, however, I thought it may be fun to use the analogy of a ‘Silent Disco’.

What the heck is a ‘Silent Disco’?

Imagine this:

A group of people in a room together,

All wearing wireless headsets with channels A, B and C

On A there is funk

On B there is rock

On C there is pop music

People can flip between channels and are dancing to the music of A, B or C. What you find is changing channels changes your view of the world. You see the people quickly that are on the same channel as you – usually shown by the way they dancing, singing along etc.

Here is an example of people at a Silent Disco (with 2 channels):

And yes, I attended onein my youth!

So, how does this relate to Google+?

In epistemology, pluralism is the position that there is not one consistent set of truths about the world but, rather, many.

Scientific advancement has enabled us to reach other galaxies through powerful telescopes, but it had not connected this many people with its layers of complexity before now. Television was uni-directional – now we are becoming involved, networked and networking in a new way…a more integral way.

One of my all time favourite sages is Ken Wilber has this to say as well: An integral approach is based on one basic idea: no human mind can be 100% wrong. Or, we might say, nobody is smart enough to be wrong all the time. And that means, when it comes to deciding which approaches, methodologies, epistemologies, or ways or knowing are “correct,” the answer can only be, “All of them.” That is, all of the numerous practices or paradigms of human inquiry — including physics, chemistry, hermeneutics, collaborative inquiry, meditation, neuroscience, vision quest, phenomenology, structuralism, subtle energy research, systems theory, shamanic voyaging, chaos theory, developmental psychology—all of those modes of inquiry have an important piece of the overall puzzle of a total existence that includes, among other many things, health and illness, doctors and patients, sickness and healing.

Adding in new channels for new experience

Just like switching channels on the Silent Disco headset, when one searches, within reason, outside of your comfort zone we see content we wouldn’t otherwise. And more importantly we can see/interpret the context as well.

Here is an example:

I found a University whilst looking for “Science of Google+” and I could see from their profile they had only started on Google+ that day I knew this as they only had a few posts and ‘they were all about them’ dated that day. Mindanao University in the Philippines

We do this context building all the time but on this occasion, “Search function” shows us the big, wild world outside of your content comfort zone. There are new perspectives there, especially what is currently popular in the wilder sphere. Something Akpo Siekpe had suggested to me a while back as it can broaden one’s view. Also, you will find out, as their small profile photos are there once they’ve +1’d who else has ventured over the compound’s wall into the flow of “mainstream” consciousness.  It is exactly that a ‘main stream’ as opposed to our siphoned off tributaries, or lakes, that we have created through ‘circling’ content we like.

In a more general sense the brilliant, kind and generous Rehan Ahmad puts it, “You get exposure from the world” different views and learning. Very true.


When you jump in and out of hangouts you realise they are like parties, meetings or other social events. They all have a different feel. And the dance that people make is different as well i.e. the culture alters from hangout to hangout.

If you change hangouts (i.e. like switching the channel on the headphones) you change the people you are dancing with as well as the “music” you hear.
With hangouts now being text chat, sometimes in groups of up to around 100 people, as well as video calls it really has become complex. Factors include…

Name of hangout

One way setting a contextual “frame” for a hangout is to give it a name.

This way people can run around, dancing within that frame.

Change the frame, change the dance.

Numbers of people in the room – there is a considerable difference in the dynamics between 2 people, 3-6 people and between 6 and full room (10 people).

As soon as group size increases there are social norms that emerge e.g. people being introduced to one and other (if they don’t already know) and giving some context to their background.

Nature of the people in the room (especially for the video calls but also apparent in chat) – what can I say, people are people! There are personalities and differences that can all be appreciated as contributing to life’s dance. There can be people from all over the world, in all walks of life. One gains a new perspective when you let their personal world join with your own. It can be insightful.

Prior history and context to conversations – often we would “catch someone up” when they join the conversation. If one person jumps in the hangout, whilst the others have been there for hours (yes, this happens regularly) then that person has to build a model of where the room is at. This will happen unconsciously anyway, but we can start to become curious as to what is going on to start watching the dance. In turn, the person gets to grips with the “climate of the room” as opposed to the general Google+ culture of sub-culture. Climate changes depending on the nature of the “heat” generated from the dance that is occurring.

Group Chat – people will often have side chats going on as well.

You see their non-verbal expressions change as they respond to someone’s comment. In fact, there could be numerous side chats as people are cross communicating whilst the hangout is going on.

As this is happening, one can watch and observe the responses to comments made as well. A fascinating insight into people and the different multiple perspectives that exist whilst the communication dance is occurring.


As you can see, “The Silent Disco” is a way to think about both switching channels (hangouts) as well as with the people dancing in the room. The dance can be pretty or ugly depending upon how receptive we are to everyone else’s toes, so to speak. But it is through understanding we are all different and all have our own perspective, that we can communicate with one another even more effectively. It can be a lot of fun as well!