Friday, 16 December 2011

Before you activate Facebook’s Timeline – pause and think

Now that Facebook’s new Timeline feature has gone live worldwide, much will be written and much will be learned about how people interact with the new feature. Timeline is both amazing and frightening. It is a life tracking feature – a chronicle of your time on Facebook.
However, before you activate this feature you may want to know that there are some controls built around Timeline that may protect you from revealing too much. If you have lived a harmless and respectable life you won’t have much to worry about. However, if you’re normal and have at times lived like Christopher Hitchens let loose in Ibiza, you may want to activate some of these controls.
First up is the seven day review period. The system will initially default to a seven day review period. This will give users time to reflect and decide what they want to appear in their timeline before anyone else sees it.
Then there’s the ‘View As’ button. This allows users to check the layout of your profile before sharing anything with your groups.
Finally there’s the ‘Hide from Timeline’ feature. You’ll probably be using this one a lot. It allows you to remove photos, updates or other content from the overall Timeline list.
Timeline throws up many moral, ethical and social questions, not least why on earth people would want to document, detail and commemorate every part of their lives? Privacy advocates are, no doubt, outraged by Timeline’s potential to lay bare every facet of the lives of hundreds of millions of people. On the other hand, maybe Zuckerberg is right, maybe we have already seen the death of individual privacy and will just have to live with it in the same way governments and dictators can no longer control and censor the spread of information?
Social media may have killed the ability to remain private but is has also disrupted the ability of oppressive regimes to control how people share their ideas, hopes and aspirations.
It remains to be see how people interact with Timeline. What’s very interesting about Timeline is the apps that are being developed for it. Watch this space.


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