Facebook Timeline: Change for the Better?

Facebook Timeline: Change for the Better?


 By Heather Phelan


“No Facebook! Don't force me into this timeline crap!”

“This timeline thing on Facebook makes no sense to me.”

“Now that the Timeline is out, I can decide if it’s cool or not. No, the Timeline isn't cool.”

Ah, we all could have predicted it; the slew of angry statuses that flood our walls as soon as Facebook makes the tiniest of changes to the system. We’re all used to people blurting out mindless complaints, but is the latest Facebook update actually for the worse?

While the new timeline is being described as “the new way to express who you are”, the whole thing is reminiscent of the old social networking websites users have abandoned before, like Bebo. The timeline takes all the stuff that used to be on your wall and splits it into blocks - each individual wall post has its own block, and so do your latest tagged photos and most recently added friends. It’s almost exactly how Bebo used to be laid out. But are users really going to be impressed by the new layout when it’s so similar to the one they once deserted?

Those who used Myspace and Bebo will remember being able to pick their own backgrounds, or “skins”, which had the same effect as Facebook’s “cover photo” - it personalised your profile page. The new “cover photo” idea makes it far more interesting to look at other people’s profiles. Instead of just a profile picture, you get a banner at the top of your page, which is a photo you pick from any of your albums or tagged photos. Like Bebo and Myspace’s “skin” idea, the cover photo adds an artistic touch to your profile page.

There is one thing, however, that Facebook has introduced which no other social networking site has done before: the Activity Log. On the right-hand side of your profile, you have can click on any month of any year since you first signed up to Facebook. Your wall then morphs into the “highlights” of that year. The highlights being the most liked statuses, the most commented posts, the biggest photo albums, the most-attended event, the most-added friend that month… it’s a summary on the most exciting things you did that month, arranged chronologically from the top of your page.

People who regularly update Facebook as to their whereabouts will love the new Map addition. With one click you can ask Facebook to list all the places you’ve visited since signing up, and you can tag your photos to say where they were taken. If you’ve added a “Life Event” to your timeline (such as starting a new job or relationship) you can add the location of that event to your map, so that everyone knows when and where it happened.

In this sense, Facebook has become more precise - clicking on someone’s profile used to bombard you with unnecessary information. If you wanted to find a particular post, you had to wade through pages and pages of wall posts from other people. With Timeline, you can narrow the profile down to the latest month, and decide whether you want to see statuses, photos, places or life events. On your own profile, you can promote old statuses to the “featured status” position so they’re easier to find.

The new timeline might be nicer to look at, and it might be a good tool for reminiscing about old times with your friends, but critics are mainly concerned with adding even more private information to Facebook. Most people find comfort in the thought that any embarrassing statuses they made years ago will be forgotten about over time, because no one is going to scroll through two years-worth of posts, but now everyone can quickly find your angriest, most mortifying statuses, unless you specifically go back to hide them from the public. Another concern is that Timeline could make it easier for strangers to find specific information about your past, like where you’ve lived or worked, without your knowledge.

So is the new Facebook an improvement on the old one? Well, if you’re ever wondering when you met your best friend, where you took that holiday with your family years ago, or where that awful photo of you was taken, Timeline can tell you. But do you really want to know?

“The only thing that Timeline has shown me was how much of a whiny dork I used to be.”

Relevant Links
The Truth About Social Media And Relationships
Why Social Media Sucks