If you haven't waded into the new Facebook Timeline yet, you'll be thrown into the deep end shortly.
*Pause for mandatory moaning and groaning*
I know, I know. I wasn't a huge fan of most of Facebook's "improvements" over the last few years, either. But, we survived them. Got used to them, even. And, like it or not, it's Facebook's pool - we just swim in it. So, strap on your goggles and arm-floaties and take a deep breath. (Shut up, you know you are so not getting out of the water.)
Knowing resistance was futile, I decided to dip into FB's Timeline a while back, while it was still optional, to give myself some time to play with it. So, I figured I'd offer my Good, Bad and Ugly (and Pretty) report on the subject:
Honestly, I kind of like the aesthetics of the Timeline.
It took me a few days to get used to it. But, once you do, it's a fairly intuitive interface. It's basically just a vertical chronological list of of your posts: statuses, photos, app updates, etc. are all in one long line going from the present alllllll the way down to "Born."
Yep, FB's timeline is now, literally, your whole life scrolling before your eyes.
Of course, for most people, the years between "born" and "joined facebook" on your Timeline are pretty much blank - but they don't have to be. You can add "life events" to your timeline - complete with a photo/video, a story, a location, and "tags", should you so desire. You can list marriages, divorces, births, deaths, moves, education, personal achievements, the addition of a pet, the installation of new body art and just about any other kind of personal milestone you can think of.
I added my sons' births (month and year only) and a few other tidbits. But, to be honest, I don't know anyone who's used these life events much or gone back to add to their pre-fb years. But it'll be interesting to see how people use it going forward.
The scroll-through-your-whole-life format also makes Facestalking easier. That could be a good or a bad, depending on which side of the stalkee/stalker relationship you happen to fall ... which brings us to ...
Privacy. Of course. Let's face it, FB doesn't have a great track record with respecting your personal privacy.
And, at first glance, the new Timeline feels like FB trying yet again to make your personal information more public. But, really, the Timeline doesnt change any of your personal privacy settings - it ony makes the content that was already out there a little easier to navigate.
With the FB Profile, users had to scroll through pages and pages and pages of posts to see your "old" stuff. Now, they can use the hand-dandy mini-timeline to the right of your home page to jump to any given month or year of your life. "Gee, I wonder what Zen was posting back when she started that new work assignment ... let's just zip on over to June, 2009 and take a little look-see, eh? Ooooo, she had some anger issues ... let's just change the privacy setting on those."
But, that's the good news about the bad news: You still have the same level of control over the privacy of your posts. You can scroll through your timeline (or your "activity list" - a streamlined version of your timeline that only you can see) and select the audiences for each post: Don't want your boss to see those pics of you on the fishing boat last year? You can delete it, remove it from your timeline, or limit the audience to your "fishing buddies" group. Up to you.
Personally, I've been using FB's friend lists (personal friends vs work colleagues vs family vs acquaintances, etc.) to limit visibility of specific posts for a while now, so it wasn't too difficult to go back through and police a few of my random older posts that might not be suitable for all audiences.
BUT, if you've been on FB a long time and/or have a lot of old posts that you're concerned about, it could be pretty grueling to go back through your entire timeline to set privacy settings on each one. If FB sticks to it's current Timeline rollout process, you should have one week between your Timeline activating for you and when it goes public. If you have questionable or need-to-be private past posts, I suggest using that week wisely. You can use the handy "view as" near the top right to see how your Timeline will appear to specific friends or the public.
Your photo albums privacy settings should remain unchanged, but your photos will be a little more prominent in your timeline now. So, don't forget to check those settings, too.
The other privacy related potential danger-zone you might want to check is the "Map" ... This is a good article about that.
The truth is that you should never pretend that ANYTHING you put on the web is ever really "private". But, at least with a little bit of work, your FB content shouldn't be any LESS private that it already was.
With the roll-out of the Timeline, FB has cranked up App sharing to an 11. To hear FB tell it, this is a good thing. To me, this is more like over-sharing on steroids. T.M. effing. I.
But, again, you have some options (Under Accont Settings: Apps): You can delete or deauthorize an app, of course. But you can also change the sharing default of most apps to limit the audience that is bombarded with your latest eating, shopping, listening, reading, watching, traveling, decorating, and grooming activities.
Please. Do. This.
It's not that I don't want to know about every little thing you're up to ... okay, yes, it partly IS that ... but, to me, this over-sharing detracts from "real" communication and connection, rather than adds to it. It just turns into so much visual White Noise on my screen. After a while, it gets hard to tune out the trivial and I'm a lot more likely to miss the important stuff that you actually WANT me to read.
One new feature I quite like about the Timeline is the "Cover Photo". Kind of like a blog header, the cover photo takes up the whole top of your Timeline and is the first thing people see when they visit your page.
(One note of caution, even if the rest of your profile is locked down tight and private, your Cover photo will be public. No way out of that, currently. So, choose wisely.)
Some people have gotten really creative with their Facebook Covers. But you don't have to be a graphic artist to use the Cover Photo: Just upload a new pic or choose one of your existing ones - landscape-orientation works best, of course. If the image is too small, FB will add a border around it. If it's too large, you can drag it about to place it just how you want.
If you want to add a slightly higher degree of difficulty, you can make a custom Cover - the size is 851 by 315.
Or, feel free to steal one of mine: I've been playing with some just for kicks and giggles.
Because I'm a geek. That's what we do for fun. Shut up. :p
So, have you tried out the new Timeline yet? What do you like and dislike about it? Any tips or tricks to share?
If you hate it ... well, the final bit of good news is that FB seems to "improve" it's interface about every 12.6 seconds. So, if you hate it, just wait a while. I'm sure they'll come up with something you hate even more very shortly. ;p
ZEN'S FB COVERS
(click through for full sizes)
This one reminds me of a few bloggers I know:
(Disclaimer: Some of these Covers are my original work, but most are derivatives of other people's images. I don't claim copyright on any of them.)