The Facebook Timeline – My Thoughts

As you may have but will inevitably know about, Facebook’s Timeline is rolling out, after being in closed testing for a few months. If you want to enable it or find out more, click on this link. So, let’s assess the potential impact and have a look at what it offers.

‘The Wall’ has been such an integral part of Facebook since it’s inception – it’s the one-stop shop for everything related to the person, a wholistic representation of themselves and how they want to present themselves to the universe. Up till now, it’s been little more than a filtered news feed of a person’s activity. A random selection of pictures, a larger than normal profile picture and some quick links.

However, this older design had issues – first and foremost, it was confusing and difficult to navigate. Segments weren’t clearly divided chronologically, instead all being lumped into one mega-feed. There wasn’t a cohesive link joining all the events, such as status updates, photo uploads, etc, together. In addition, any app updates (such as sports tracking, game updates) were also lumped in this cesspool.

This is where the timeline comes in – a nearly infinitely scrollable list of everything a person has done, separated from their main information, their timeline itself and then app updates underneath that. More logical and aesthetically pleasing – everything is mapped against time. The Timeline is then ominously punctuated at the end by the word BORN – a sobering reminder that Facebook wants to document you, from the beginning to the very end, the more precisely the better.

However, not all is rosy. Facebook is threading a fine line already – before the Timeline, some users were already confused or intimidated with the plethora of privacy settings before hand, something that I believe is intentionally convoluted to keep users sharing to as wide an audience as possible. With the Timeline, a new challenge awaits – everything that you thought was buried in time beforehand now resurfaces in all it’s glory.

Nothing is forgotten on the internet and this is a clearly visible manifestation of that. Even geolocation of pictures that you’re located in is now centre stage. My thoughts on Facebook as a substitute for social interaction have been documented before. The privacy settings, are disjointed, except more so now, with page flips required and the ‘collapsed’ default view of the timeline. You would be wise to take a quick stocktake of your existing privacy settings to ensure that there aren’t unwanted eyeballs where they’re not welcomed.

So from here, some users will painstakingly sift through their older posts and updates, carefully curating how they want their timeline to appear (the amount of effort required would exponentially increase based on how much you’ve fed into Facebook in years past). I’ve found difficulties in property removing all items from the Timeline, purely due to the quantity of content there (and I hardly post on Facebook at all), not to mention some ‘remove’ buttons not working correctly, suspiciously enough.

The vast majority of users will set their banner picture and mindlessly carry on – briefly stopping to marvel at old posts and pictures they had long forgotten. Some might even be surprised at just what Facebook remembers. Finally, a small, but rising proportion of users will seek far simpler and more manageable alternatives that don’t require them to constantly plug leaks all the time. There’s only so much Facebook people can handle, and I firmly believe we’re fast approaching that limit.

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