Opinion | Facebook Timeline

Upon learning that Facebook was changing the user interface to something called “Timeline,” I was a wee bit annoyed, but then again, this is the same site that really ought to strongly consider changing its name to The Social Network that Fixes the Unbroken.  Case in point: In the past few years alone, it has continually screwed with privacy settings, and, with each new “fix,” has rendered public by default items (such as contact information) that may have been previously restricted to a limited audience in certain profiles. Indeed, Facebook now practically guarantees that users have even less control of their information more than ever.

Further, all of this is done so that the company can continue to sell user data to unknown third parties for reasons unknown. Well, let’s not be coy here, we know precisely why. Consumer data is a goldmine for marketers, and, now apparently, also to an increasingly invasive federal government. Let me put it to you this way –It is astoundingly naïve and foolish not to know/be concerned that everything said or “liked” on Facebook is being stored indefinitely, whether the account has been deleted or not.  But don’t get me started on that, eh? Let’s return to Timeline.

Since this new feature has been foisted upon users regardless of preference, I wanted to at least attempt to give it a fair shake. I tend to disparage anything that is forcibly shoved down my throat, so let’s think of this review as my effort to make lemonade from piss and vinegar, shall we.

The forced usage of Timeline for individuals was set to occur on 28 February, 2012 (30 March is the slated roll-out for pages), but I wanted to give myself the illusion of having some control over the situation, and, so I elected to start using it approximately a week-and-a-half in advance.

Upon first glance, it did not appear to be all that bad. Sure, the wall seemed a lot more cluttered now, and, settings were not located where they previously had been, but let’s base my evaluation on something more substantive, such as privacy settings. Contrary to the entire idea of Facebook, yours truly is one of the very few who has no interest in announcing personal details to the world. I’ll keep every intimate crotch shifting episode and incident of flatulence to myself and confidant, thanks. There is such a thing as too much information, but this fact is lost on the attention whore mentality of Facebook.

With the implementation of Timeline, items such as name, gender, profile image, username, user ID account number, and networks is now public information whether you want it to be or not. Facebook nonchalantly makes mention of this fact, and, then assures you that the reason for this disclosure is of paramount importance –to help you connect with your friends and family! Gasp. Shock. Really?? Essentially, Facebook is telling you in no uncertain terms that it knows better than you do.

Click to Enlarge.

Just about the only control you do have in this regard is to modify who can find you in a search. And while this is a nice scrap to toss to those users with privacy concerns, let’s not mistake it for filet mignon. The fact remains that you may limit your profile from a general search, but it is still possible to find it. You’re not invisible so don’t go thinking that you are.

Click to Enlarge.

With regard to a particular privacy setting that Facebook seems to be keeping quiet. (I could not find a reference in the Help section)  Previously, the user had the ability to set whether likes and comments (recent activity) were shared. This setting has disappeared with Timeline. Now any friends that have “all updates” checked beside your name will get your likes and comments in their news feed whether you want them to or not.

Facebook has effectively taken control of this information away from the user and given it to the user’s friends. This is tantamount to putting blinds on the outside of your windows. The only way around it is to create two user profiles –one for friends and another for other.

I have taken the time to bullet the blue sky (gratuitous U2 reference) with the pros and cons of Timeline referenced below. Some of the features highlighted were previously unavailable. Be advised that it is by no means exhaustive, and, even if it were, it wouldn’t be for very long. Facebook tends to bury settings in a labyrinthine maze of clusterfuck every 3-4 months depending on how much blowback is published, and, with each subsequent change, the negatives always seem to outnumber the positives. But until somebody creates a viable alternative, it will continue to run roughshod over user concerns.

UPDATE:  Facebook makes quite the show of announcing that the Activity Log is used to control the visibility of likes & comments.  However, the reality is that the user has two very limited choices: (1) Delete the comment/like; or (2) Restrict visibility to himself. 

Click to Enlarge.

©2012 Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo™. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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3 Responses to Opinion | Facebook Timeline

  1. THREE says:

    1) I didn’t bother to change it because they’d eventually force the change on me anyway…
    2) Really, loading timeline… it just slows everything down!
    3) Visually unfriendly is correct! It’s like WHOA it’s all over the place WHOA items move WHOA where was that post I liked OMG it moved again!!! — that sorta headache
    4) Now everyone knows what kinky stuff I’m liking, commenting on, who I’m subscribing to (/not-so-secretly admiring) etc etc…
    5) BULLET THE BLUE SKY!!!!!! Best thing I’ve heard/seen in this post 🙂

    • Prattle On, Boyo says:

      Good points on the jumping around and really long loading time –for users on dial up at least, that is. The broadband user experience may vary, but perhaps someone with such a connection may include a comment as to that accordingly.

      The other privacy related issue I’ve noticed is with regard to tagging. If someone uploads an image, and then tags you, while you do have the option of disallowing it to be posted on your own wall, OTOH, you have no control over that same image appearing on the wall of the person who tagged you. This matter becomes especially contentious if the image is less than complimentary. And yet this is another example of Facebook taking away control of the user’s own privacy settings and giving it to friends.

  2. […] March 31st is the official forced usage date, but I’ve been using it for the past few weeks.  And while my original opinion has not changed substantively, I have, however, noticed that Timeline essentially neuters cause-inspired networking. While it is fine for individual pages, if you are using Facebook to publicize a web page such as POB, then you will quickly determine that it is not only decidedly visually unfriendly, but also essentially smothers communication. I previously wrote about my initial impressions of same here.  […]

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