My Life, My Facebook Timeline

TimelineThe one (non-farming) magazine that we subscribe to is Time. Somehow (hmm … busyness?) I had three issues to catch up on this past weekend. Lots of interesting pieces, but by far the one that most caught my attention was “This Is Your Life (According to Your New Timeline)” by Allie Townsend, in the February 13 issue (find it here).

The article discusses how the timeline fits into the future of Facebook.

The way Mark Zuckerberg runs Facebook is reminiscent of the way Steve Jobs ran Apple,” [Brian Solis, a principal analyst at the Altimeter Group, a digital-research-based advisory firm] says. “It’s ‘We’re not going to wait for customers to tell us what they want. We’re going to introduce what we think is in their best interest and they will learn to love it.'”

Although, the way in which Facebook is introducing this latest feature shows how they’ve tweaked their method in response to past complaints.

Facebook held off on a mandatory switch, and isn’t relying on a p.r. push to ease people inot the idea of the new design. Instead it’s counting on users to do that for one another and giving early adopters time to evangelize. “We’ve been in a mode where users can choose to use Timeline since September,” Lessin says.”The way people learn to sue social media is from their friends.

I guess I’m one of those early adopters at least some of the time. I set up my timeline some time last fall I guess. Just one or two friends that I knew of had the timeline before me, and it required jumping through the technical hoops that I assume were intended to self select users who were at least a little bit techie.

For the record, although I didn’t do much active evangelizing, I am, indeed, a fan of the Timeline. More than anything, I think what I personally most like is the visual appeal of the timeline layout.

Facebook’s real strategy though, is to draw me (and you) in through the stories, and not just the stories of our friends, but our own stories. I like the idea of story telling, in fact one of my official “goals” at work is focused on story telling (more about that some other time).

We realized that early Facebook users have been telling stories for seven years on our platform and we were sending them a message that it didn’t matter,” [Sam Lessin, Facebook product manager] says. “So we said, Instead of immediacy, instead of the five most important facts about a person, let’s weave a story together about your life.

What Facebook is really looking for is the next level of hooks to keep us users loyal on the face of so many other social media options. The timeline model of permanent, personal life stories is the direct opposite of the superficial fleeting updates that are seen (perhaps especially by non-users?) to sum up Twitter.

The next piece of the puzzle was to convince users That Facebook continues and will continue to be integral to our lives.

The more time people invest in editing their Timelines … the bigger the emotional cost of ditching Facebook for another service … So instead of asking users to create their Timelines from scratch … Facebook has done the work for them, pushing their content to the new format to show them how invested they already are.

More and more, Facebook will continue to add to our stories on our behalf, wherever we go on the web, even if we never post another status update. This story telling is increasingly done through the new apps that log your activity on other sites (Yahoo news, spotify, Pinterest etc.).

But, for Facebook that’s where the real value is – in the apps.  Between the likes and the app posts and everything else you do on the site, Facebook knows more about you than Google.

[Until now], if [anything on the internet] was worth seeing, it was indexed by Google. … Facebook is essentially a vault of Internet activity that Google can’t read.

I’m an information junkie. My family will tell you I have a bad habit of  getting up from the supper table to look up some little piece of information. A few years ago I might go to Google for an answer. Now, I’m more likely to go to Facebook (or Twitter) first. Facebook, not Google, has the ability to tell me what I really want to know about someone (do we have mutual friends) or something (what are people saying about it).

The network has to constantly reinvent itself so people feel compelled to come back, and more importantly, to share more about themselves than they had thought or felt comfortable doing so in the past.

As much as I have embraced the Timeline layout, I’m still a little wary of the level of sharing involved with the new apps.  I’m not sure I want everyone I know to see a list of every pin I pin (of course, if my friends wanted to know that they could follow me directly on Pinterest), every article I read, or every song I listen to.

Everything on your Timeline was posted, or green-lighted, by you. Facebook is just making it newly accessible. Your privacy settings haven’t changed. The burden of reassessing your content has.

Basically, what people can see on your default Timeline is exactly what they could see before Timeline, it just takes fewer clicks to do so. Plus, users now have added ability to curate those items to a greater degree, even items from the past (read this or watch this).

Oh, and while I’m on the subject of privacy … I feel I’ve said it until I’m blue in the face, but for anyone still concerned about the Ticker, the same applies – people can see exactly what they could see before the Ticker, it just takes fewer clicks to do so. I’m not going to go into it again here … read this.

So go reassess your content people. Make the switch, or at least don’t be concerned when the switch is made for you 🙂


1 Comment

  1. I don’t understand why everyone is scared of Timeline. I have it. You don’t really have to do anything other than choose a pic to be your main photo. It is not going to affect you for the most part. You only see it if you look at your profile (or someone else’s). You don’t see any change on the news feed. I guess people are just stubborn and don’t want to change!

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