As recently as one month ago Facebook announced a major upcoming overhaul of the site’s user interface. I’m sure we are all used to Facebook springing layout tweaks on us just when we get used to their latest changes. However, this time around it seems the effects will be more pronounced and, in many ways, much more privacy intruding.
The new Timeline will essentially put all of the things you’ve ever done, said or shared on Facebook into one long vertical…timeline (no wonder they call me “Thesaurus-man”). This timeline will be split into two columns and will reach as far as your date of birth, if you have provided that information. This is a godsend for stalkers and attention whores alike! Now all of that information you’ve ever wanted to share about yourself (or find out about someone else) is condensed in one easily viewable string.
While it hasn’t been officially rolled out to Facebook crowd just yet, people have found ways to hack into this feature already now using the “Facebook Developer” space. Pffft, like we don’t have anything better to do with our lives than hacking our Facebook accounts to get superfluous updates…
…so today I’ve used the hack to try out the Timeline feature on my Facebook account. And holy shit, this is going to be a major change. The end result will probably be some people spending way too much time to update every year of their lives with as many details as possible, while some others may be completely turned off at last and leave Facebook for good (ha, not likely, they come back…they always come crawling back).
If you’re like me you’ll probably fall somewhere in between the two extremes. I welcome the ability to share information I find relevant with my friends. I am also concerned that some of the things I’m not so keen on sharing may be forced out into the public if I’m not careful enough with privacy settings.
And now Facebook has made it even easier to share things that are incredibly private with the world. This is both impressive and creepy, but mostly creepy. Allow me to demonstrate:
Clicking on this innocent looking heart opens up the following box of fun choices:
You start reading the choices and you are nodding to yourself “that makes sense”, right up until you see the “Lost a Loved One”. So, Facebook now gives you an explicit option to share what’s possibly the saddest moment of your life with everyone in the world (note: the default option for sharing in Timeline is “Public” and you have to change it to “Friends” every time you want to limit the sharing circle). Oh, and Facebook curiously keeps the “like” button for that type of post, so now you can find out exactly how many of your friends are assholes. I’m sure many people will toy around with this option, ala me:
And the fun doesn’t end there. Among other cheerful options are events like “Had surgery”, “Broke a bone” and “Diagnosed with an Illness”. Although that last one has useful practical applications: if you’re using Facebook as a dating site, you can instantly see which one of your potential mates has chlamydia. I’m not sure whether Facebook has recently hired a bunch of Emo teenagers to develop the site, but the presence of such depressing “sharing” choices is a bit disturbing. Also, how did they arrive at these specific selections? Why not something like “got a second degree burn” or “got stabbed”? I can only assume that Facebook conducted an extensive market study to identify the most common tragic events that people want to talk about with their friends.
Finally, why are these options even present? Does Facebook not trust us to figure out that, should we want to, we can share anything at all? Why not give us a generic “Add life event” box where we ourselves can define what it is we want to share? Was someone at Facebook reading through the status updates we currently make and thinking “hmmm, I’m not seeing many posts about dead cats and broken femurs. Do these guys even know how to truly open up? Let’s give them some options to get the sharing started”.
Facebook, I like you and I’ve been your fan for many years, but I think you’ve finally gone a bit cuckoo with the whole “privacy” thing. I’ve always thought that people complaining about privacy issues with Facebook were blowing things out of proportion. Afterall, we always had the choice of exactly how much we wanted to share and with whom (even though navigating Facebook’s “privacy settings” was often more confusing than trying to make sense of 2007 Miss South Carolina’s famous answer). But now that Facebook is so explicitly prompting us in what to share, I’m starting to understand the other side of the debate a little bit better.
Anyways, regardless of what any of us may think, the new Timeline will get rolled out very soon. I’m actually excited to explore the new options and see how I can better shape my profile. But if some of you join in on the “privacy invasion” outcries, I now won’t blame you. In fact, I think Facebook should add another option to the list of selectable events: “Bitched about Facebook’s privacy issues…again”!