Or, I’ve seen the future of Facebook and it’s beautiful… and scary
This week, we have a new Facebook. Small changes have been rolled out to the public already (about which there has been much whining and fake petitioning), but the big ones are yet to come. Speaking at the F8 Facebook developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced the implementation of the open graph and the shift from profiles to timelines. Although the open graph (which will bring your actions across the Internet into Facebook) will arguably have a much bigger impact on real issues, like privacy concerns and the further monetization of your social actions, I expect all the yelling to be about timelines. (Yes, there will be yelling – there’s always yelling with Facebook changes.)
So, I decided that I wanted to experience timelines for myself, before all the yelling started. Thanks to what I learned from an article on TechCrunch, I was able to convince Facebook that I was an app developer and that I needed access to timeline to see how my app would play in the new timeline/open graph environment. (Don’t worry, I crossed my fingers while I did it, so it’s not really a lie, right?)
Timeline: the history of you
Initial reaction: this is beautiful. Second reaction: this is creepy.
As Zuckerberg explained it, timeline is supposed to make Facebook like a scrapbook of your life – your whole life. Starting from your birth, you can go to any day in your Facebook timeline and see your very own personal history, or at least what Facebook knows about your personal history. Although my timeline starts in 1985, it’s pretty empty until 2005, when I joined Facebook. For purposes of your timeline, it’s like your life is divided into two distinct periods. We don’t have BC and AD – we have BS and AF, Before Social and After Facebook. But, Facebook pulls information from other people’s profiles to populate your BF timeline. Mine shows my sister being born as a “life event” on my timeline, down to the day — in 1991. How does it know that? Because it knows that we’re sister’s and that’s her birthday, ergo, it’s the day that my sister was born.
On some level, it’s kind of cool that I personally can say, “What was I doing on October 3, 2008?” (Answer, apparently I went to see the movie blindness and didn’t like it.) Without Facebook, I never would have known that – the detail would have slipped away forever. (I’m not a diary keeper – this blog is hard enough.) But, the fact that I can see this much information about myself means that my friends can see it, too. I’m not sure if I want someone else to be able to find out where I was on any given day.
As more and more of our life history moves on to Facebook and become part of this timeline (the open graph means to bring things like where you run and what you cook for dinner into your timeline), something changes. There’s no more plausible deniability. There’s a record of everything. This gets at the privacy issues that we talked about in my Con Law class. Are the only people that care about privacy the ones that have something to hide? I care, but I don’t have anything to hide. (To answer the proposed timeline inclusions, I don’t run – ever, and for dinner I had spinach salad with goat cheese, Craisins, and almonds; chicken; and cheese ravioli with butternut squash sauce. It was delicious.) I’m happy to tell you (the general internet you) what I had for dinner today. But, I’m not sure that I want to tell you what I have for dinner every night. I’m worried about making too much (even innocuous and trivial) information public. Will my insurance company analyze my diet and rate my coverage accordingly? Yes that sounds crazy, and I’m not going to post any more examples because all of the other ones that I can think of are even more out there.
The privacy implications of the new Facebook are difficult to discuss. Because the immediate consequences (ex. people can know figure out when you defriended them) are so trivial and the ultimate potential consequence are so out there as to seem laughable. It’s hard to find a definable privacy concern that’s somewhere in the middle.
Even though I can’t define it, I’m still concerned. Because I know that I can’t help leaping into the next new thing. I want to be on the cutting edge of social media, so I’ll keep joining and sharing. I’ll try the new apps on the open graph and tell you what I’m eating for dinner. I’ll tell you where I went for a walk – but never a run. But, watch out for me. If I ever join a share your Social Security number app, please sit me down and let me know that I, and Facebook, have taken it too far.
Questions of the day: Have you set up your timeline yet? How do you feel about the changes? Are you more on the side of pretty or scary?
MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.