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Timeline – The story of your life

Yesterday, Facebook started rolling out its much-anticipated Timeline feature and even long-suffering Facebook members used to constant change will be shocked at the results. Timeline is not just a redesign of each member’s profile page but a complete re-think of what Facebook is all about. It’s no longer just a social network; it’s now a vast collection of highly personalized web sites.

When Facebook announced the change back in September, CEO Mark Zuckerberg described Timeline as a way for Facebook members to present “the story of their lives” and that is exactly what Timeline does. Starting with your most recent information first, Timeline takes your entire Facebook history – every post, image, friend, like, and status update – and organizes all of them back to the time you joined.

And it doesn’t stop there. If you entered information about your college, high school or anything else that happened prior to joining Facebook, it will include that information on your Timeline as well – going right back to your date of birth. Want to fill in the pre-Facebook gaps? You can do that too, pre-dating photos and status updates to build a more complete picture of your life.

To see your entire Facebook life presented to you in this way can be strangely unnerving. Whether it’s a message from an old boyfriend, a photo of a since-deceased family member, or a video of a night out with the girls that you’d rather forget, everything is included in a startling recap of your Facebook experience.

Facebook says that all profiles will eventually be switched to the new format, although it doesn’t say when that will happen. For the moment, you can wait until a notification about Timeline appears on your page or you can go to facebook.com/about/timeline to activate it immediately. The activation process includes a tutorial on the new format and an optional “waiting period” of 7 days before you go live. Once you go live with Timeline, you can’t go back.

The main thing to remember about Timeline is that everyone who currently has access to your full profile will also have full access to your Timeline. This means that photos and other posts that were long forgotten or buried deep at the bottom of your wall are suddenly visible again. It also means that it’s now much easier to find posts relating to say, your college days or your previous relationships than it was before.

Of course, being more mindful of privacy issues than it used to be, Facebook has built in a number of options to help you present a Timeline that you are comfortable with. You can delete posts before your Timeline is published or you can simply hide them from Timeline altogether. And remember, everyone gets up to 7 days to make sure they publish a Timeline that they are happy with.

Here are some other key features to look out for:

  • Timeline allows you to publish a Cover photo for your Timeline, which will appear as a full-width headline at the top of your profile. You can pick an existing Facebook photo or upload a new one. You can change your cover as often as you like but remember, your cover is public, just like your profile picture.
  • The easiest way to edit what appears on your Timeline is to click on the Activity Log button. This will display all your activity for the past year, most recent first. To the right of each activity will be a small circle. Click on the circle to choose whether this activity appears on your Timeline or is hidden. You also have the option to change the date of the activity so it fits your Timeline better. (If your activity was a comment, you only have the opportunity to delete it.) Once you are comfortable with the current year, activity from previous years can be accessed at the bottom of the page.
  • Once you have edited your Timeline, you have the opportunity to see what it looks like to others. On your Timeline, click on the arrow next to the small wheel to the right of the Activity Log button. Click on View As. You can then enter the name of any friend to see how your Timeline appears to them.

Once you start to work on your Timeline, you will begin to see the amazing possibilities. It really does offer you the opportunity to tell the story of your life. The good news is that you still have complete control over how much or how little you share.

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