Remember in junior high and high school when you had to make timelines? From the geological ages to the history of the U.S to the life of Ernest Hemingway, timelines were always assigned as a quick way for students to spend five minutes reflecting about their subject. It’s probably one of the worst assignments to give a child (although adding your own drawings of a chest of tea being thrown in the sea or Hemingway’s six-toed cats can be fun), because how much of that information will really be absorbed? Will a 15-year-old U.S. history student really remember that the Fugitive Slave Act came before the Alien and Sedition Act? In reality, timelines are only helpful if the people viewing them are truly interested in the information. Otherwise, a historical skit may be a better way to teach the Lewis and Clark expedition.
The same holds true for Facebook’s new Timeline feature. In essence, it takes all your posts that you ever made on the social media site (that’s right, even that picture that you never wanted to see again of your high school homecoming dance) and allows you to create an online scrapbook of your life.
According to a recent USA Today article, the Timeline feature will collect photos or posts with the most ‘likes’ or comments and include them in your timeline. All 800 million Facebook users will have five days to control what information is hidden and they will still be able to delete parts of the Timeline once it’s published.
On the Facebook discussion page about the Timeline, most people do not agree with the new Timeline and want the choice to either have the Timeline or stay with the current chronological feed. As for me, it all comes down to the simple high school assignment: Who really wants to see your timeline? The people who truly care about your life and development as a person have photo albums filled with all of your happy, sad, awkward or proud moments. They know how you felt when you graduated high school, went to college, got a job, got engaged and went through other life milestones. The funny thing about Timeline is that it’s mainly created for the very crowd who can never understand the true you: those random friends you still kept, even though you haven’t talked to them since confirmation or the cute boy or girl you met at the bar last night who’s trying to find out if you’re worth the effort.
One of my good friends just deleted Facebook. After being an active user since high school, she switched over to Timeline and quickly became afraid her privacy was in jeopardy. She didn’t want to be a part of a company that squeezed itself into every crevice of her life. She told me she felt like her true friends would keep in contact with her through phone calls or emails, and that the art of meeting someone and striking up a conversation with him or her has been lost because of Facebook. For her, focusing on the quality of friends over the quantity and keeping old, embarrassing photos hidden was more important than being constantly logged in.
Should you leave Facebook because of Timeline? I doubt I will because I’m not a very active user of Facebook — I log on once a day for a few minutes. But one thing’s for sure: I’ll leave the personal scrapbooks to Creative Memories and rainy afternoons.