Looking back with Facebook's Timeline: Nostalgic or horrifying?

Summary:Taking a look down memory lane with Facebook's new Timeline feature might be full of surprises, both pleasant and unsettling at times.

If you're on Facebook, you've probably noticed the new Timeline format creep up on profile pages, whether it be your own and/or those of your friends.

After playing around with Timeline, I have mixed feelings about the new profile layout. I'm not alone here either as the topic of Timeline sprouted up at several holiday parties I attended over the weekend, with thoughts ranging from adoration and praise for Facebook's innovation to disdain at the thought of having to deal with yet another dramatic change on the social networking site.

Personally, I find Timeline to be yet another one of those love-it-or-hate-it items on Facebook. I'll start with why I find it troublesome.

First, Timeline puts all of your Facebook activity front-and-center with incredibly easy access to information from several years ago that I might not want in the spotlight now. Examples include silly status messages I forgot about and would no longer support now to photos where I'm wondering "Why on earth did I wear that?" Sometimes these items can just be downright horrifying that they are so much more public now than they were at the time when Facebook was limited to a much smaller pool of participants, such as when it was only available to college students.

Sure, these are photos that I'm still tagged in and probably don't care about untagging, but I don't necessarily want it so readily available for friends to see anymore.

But those are petty complaints. What is more worrisome is the activity log, which displays everything you've shared in an abbreviated but explicit form with whom you choose "from today back to when you first started using Facebook." Unfortunately, the default setting is "Allowed on Timeline" rather than letting users decide what to share first.

The good thing about the initial stages of Timeline is that once you opt in (although you can never go back) is you get seven days before you're forced to publish the entire layout. Thus, there is time to curate one's profile.

However, I learned quickly that I would have to set aside some serious time to do this as my personal Timeline goes back to 2005, the year after Facebook launched.

I did learn, actually to my delighted surprise, that the Timeline doesn't necessarily post everything you've actually done since 2004. Before 2010, the postings are broken down by yearly highlights -- at least on the front door of Timeline. Basically everything is available on the activity log, which is so overwhelming that it is unlikely anyone but yourself (or a dedicated stalker) is going to look through all of that text.

Nevertheless, while I was curating my Timeline before hitting the publish button, I did find myself a bit nostalgic at old posts with photos, links of I've shared, and, more recently, check-ins at various locations around the world.

I also do find the overall design of Timeline to be fairly attractive. There is a hint of too much clutter, and I do wish I could minimize certain items even further. But the cover photo at the top is an especially nice touch, and it really does convey the sense that the profile page is a news site just about you.

Love it or hate it (like almost any other change that happens on Facebook), get used to Timeline because soon every Facebook subscriber is going to be forced to adopt it.

Related:

Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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