Facebook Timeline: A Different Perspective

As Facebook Timeline slowly rolls out to the scores of people on the world’s largest social network, there seems to be a lot of resistance. It is the same song and dance as always: Facebook makes a change, people complain en mass about that change, and then they get used to it and no longer care. I’d be surprised if Facebook’s constant evolution has cost them even 1% of their 900 million active users.

However, things do seem a bit different this time around. Our very own Oliver de Looze recently published a nice oped piece titled, Facebook Timeline- Friend or Foe?, where he voices his concerns about the new layout, primarily Privacy. After reviewing the new Facebook Timeline back in October, and then using it since then, I’ve got a different perspective on it.

Timeline: Winning me over

I’ll admit that I didn’t like Timeline when I first got it either; it was different, kind of clunky, and it brought up some very old posts. I had to go through and hide some stuff from 6+ years ago I didn’t necessarily want people seeing. Then I started to use it and instantly realized the value of it. Timeline allowed me to look back on the events of my life- both big and small- and see how far I’ve come. It’s really a very interesting and novel concept.

We’ve been chronicling our lives without even realizing it, and Facebook now gives us easy access to that. I’m actually excited to see even 5 years down the line what I’ll uncover by viewing my Facebook account. By then, it will be 10+ years since joining the social network, which I got on in 2005.

My Timelime from 2009

Timeline also makes it easier to share what you’re doing. I’ve connected Spotify and Goodreads to my Facebook account because I want people to know what I’m listening to and what I’m reading. It also automatically creates an amazing archive for me, which will help me rediscover old songs or books years down the line.

Facebook is a social network that has had a pretty clear modus operandi from the very start: share with your friends. They are staying true to that mission, and things don’t seem to be slowing down. People love the fact that they can share what’s important to them.

What About My Privacy?!?

Oliver does mention a very good point that people are seemingly less concerned about their privacy in today’s info-sharing culture, and that might be true. I try to drive the importance of privacy home when I teach my students (college freshmen). Surprisingly, most of them realize it, thought a lot still don’t. He called Timeline a privacy disaster and that could be true too.

However, Facebook and Timeline simply make it easier to share, they don’t make you share. Your personal privacy is whatever you make of it. You can always delete, hide, or leave Facebook forever. You can turn of sharing in apps when you authorize them with your account. Timeline threatens your privacy as much as forks threaten your health- it really depends on how you use it. If you don’t want it out there, don’t share it.

This does require some work. Facebook has some fine grained privacy settings. You have a lot of control over who can see what. You can even set certain things so only you can see them.

Facebook Privacy Settings

You can even edit stories right from your Timeline, hiding or deleting them completely.

Editing in Timeline

I’d also like to point out that these same privacy settings make it so only friends can see your profile at all, and they will also make sure Google doesn’t index your profile. You can even divide your friends into groups, and only share certain things with certain people. Again, it takes some work, but if privacy is important to you, it’s worth the work.

Conclusion

Facebook is a social network that was designed to share information- to tell the people of the world (or at least your friends and those people you met that one time at that place) who you are and what you’re about. They are doing exactly what they set out to do, and Timeline not only makes it easier to do that, but it also allows you take a trip down memory lane when you want to. It’s an interactive scrapbook, and much like a scrapbook, you get to choose what goes on it.

The bottom line is if you don’t want people seeing something, don’t post it on the Internet. My advice would be to take the time and make your timeline something that you want people to see- it tells your story. It might as well be the story you want people to read.