Do we really want to publish “the story of our lives?”
If there is one thing that Facebook users hate it’s change. Despite being relatively tech-savvy (over 70 percent of Facebook users consider themselves to be “technologically sophisticated”), Facebook’s fanatical followers are remarkably old school when it comes to the layout of their beloved social network.
Whether it’s adding a ticker to the News Feed or altering the size of photos, each change that the company makes is met by a torrent of abuse from Facebook regulars and calls for a return to the “old Facebook” that everyone knows and clearly loves.
So the howls of protest that greeted last week’s introduction of Timeline, which amounts to a major makeover of everyone’s Facebook profile, were not unexpected. Comments on the Facebook blog entry that accompanied the announcement have been overwhelmingly negative and subsequent surveys have only confirmed the hostility.
But of course, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives have been down this road before. Nearly every major move they have made over the last few years has been greeted less than enthusiastically, with immediate calls for an about face and threats of mass desertion. But what usually happens is exactly the opposite; more people sign up, more advertisers jump on board, and the Facebook cash register just keeps on ringing.
So will this time be any different? Well, judging by the tone of the online commentary, there is just the slightest chance that it might. And it won’t be the format changes themselves that trip Facebook up – after all, most of the sample Timelines that the company has published are things of beauty – but rather the thinking behind the Timeline concept.
It comes down to this: Do we really want our Facebook profiles to be visual representations of “the story of our lives,” as Zuckerberg put it the other day, or do most people actually use Facebook for very different reasons?
One of the videos that Facebook used to introduce Timeline featured a certain Mr. Andy Sparks, who is clearly living the perfect life – a gratifyingly fulfilling school and college career, followed by love, marriage and joyous fatherhood, all accompanied by a wonderful tableau of perfectly matching photos and video.
It was as if Andy had been waiting his whole life for Timeline to be introduced, giving him the perfect online home for his carefully documented life story.
But how many people live that kind of life and, if they do, how many people want to share it with the world on Facebook? More to the point, how many people join Facebook to look back on past achievements and how many are there to gloss over the past and maybe reinvent themselves a little along the way?
But isn’t Timeline optional? If we don’t want to share our best-forgotten school days, our failed relationships, and our going-nowhere careers with all our so-called friends, can’t we just ignore Timeline and stick with our regular profiles? Apparently not, says a Facebook spokesperson. Once Timeline rolls out, everyone will be expected to make the switch.
It takes a special kind of arrogance to think that 750 million people would like to publicize the story of their lives on Facebook. It’s no longer enough to just check in with the occasional update and comment on your buddy’s goofy new hairstyle. Now you have to let everyone know exactly what you’ve been up to for all those missing years.
What started out as a college dating service and chat room has now morphed into your own personal online history book. If that’s a book you would rather not publish, then maybe it’s time to give Google+ a second look!
Are you excited about using Timeline? Do you plan on publishing “the story of your life?” Share your thoughts with the Online Mom!
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