Facebook Timeline – Friend or Foe?

It cannot be denied that Facebook is now a large part of most people’s lives. For many of us, its use involves catching up with friends, organising events and sharing our experiences of the world around us. With over 900 million members, there is no doubt that Facebook is the de facto social network on the planet, the time of Myspace has definitely passed and more and more people are now migrating to Facebook from other social networks that were perhaps more popular in local areas (Bebo in the UK, for example).

For a product with so many users, Facebook seems to be incredibly quick to change its designs and layout. Is this actually a good thing for users, and can they possible keep changing without facing a sharp user backlash?

If it isn’t broken..

Facebook, despite its ever growing popularity, seems to have a nasty habit of changing its format and layout quite frequently, which often causes a brief period of uproar amongst a small group of users. As quickly as the protests start they disappear, but the decision to introduce Facebook Timeline seems to have had a lasting impact with many (myself included) of Facebook’s users.

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Are Facebook changes inevitable ?

The switch to Timeline saw one of the biggest overhauls of the Facebook layout, ever since the site was started back in 2004. I imagine the idea in Palo Alto was that a drastic overhaul may help to stem the trend of a number of users leaving the site, and that it will keep users clicking through more Facebook posts every day.. In my opinion, however, I feel the introduction of Timeline may have had the opposite effect, especially if the consensus of my Facebook friends echoes that of the wider Facebook user.

Is Timeline a Privacy Concern?

I must confess that I myself have yet to switch to Timeline by choice, however I know that the day will arrive when I log on to find that I’ve been automatically moved over to Timeline. Despite this, I have had ample opportunity to experience Timeline for myself as my flatmate choose to adopt Timeline as soon as it was launched back in December 2011.

My first impression of it was simply “Privacy Disaster” – his entire life had been documented by the year (and month) for everybody to see and nosey through. When I asked him how he felt about this, he replied that he wasn’t really that bothered. This response baffled me greatly and I began to wonder if many Facebook users had the same attitude as him and that perhaps I simply valued my privacy more than many other people. However, I quickly realised that my flatmate was an exception amongst my Facebook friends and that most of us were against the change.

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Timeline exposes all your Facebook history

Now, I know that you do have control over the level of access that you give to people who view your Facebook profile, and I also know that Facebook gives you seven days once you’ve switched to Timeline in order to tweak your privacy settings and the content that goes into your Timeline. But why should I have to spend, quite possibly, a number of hours of my time sifting through my past posts and settings to make sure that certain items don’t go into my Timeline?

Whilst I appreciate that the only content that will be used are things that I have already posted, I like the fact that those past posts from way back in 2008 are consigned to the depths of my Facebook wall and while they could be seen, I doubt that any of my friends would go so far back through my wall in order to see them. Timeline, however, makes it easy for people to sift through my Facebook history, see the jobs I had or the girlfriends I dated with only a few clicks of the mouse.

If that wasn’t enough, Facebook has also made it easier to share the music you’re listening to, articles you’re reading, sites you’re visiting, and more with their new Facebook Connections to seamlessly share content. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that social news apps usage is declining sharply, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all if this is not due to people wanting a bit of privacy with the things they’re reading. Facebook seems to want to make your past history more visible, and then get you to add even more of what you’re doing daily to your new Timeline.

Conclusion

Whilst nothing changes regarding the content on your Facebook profile, I feel that the ease of which people can access your past posts and life events leads to Timeline being (in my opinion at least) cause for some concern regarding privacy. The old cliché “Out of sight, out of mind” seems an apt description to the way most of us have traditionally treated our Facebook profiles. What will happen when I eventually get forced into using Timeline? Maybe I’ll quit the site in protest, or perhaps I’ll do what I’ve always done and grumble about the changes before slowly accepting them. After all, that’s what most of us have already done through all of Facebook’s other privacy gaffes.

What do you think about Facebook Timeline? Leave your comments below.