Facebook Timeline: Back Issues Of Your Life

by Adam Helweh |

Many years ago, around age 12 or so, I started collecting comic books. With the pocket money I had I would usually grab many of the most popular Marvel Comics titles like Spiderman, The Hulk and of course my favorite character Wolverine! His origin was always shrouded in mystery. Most times you would learn a tidbit about his backstory and soon after be buried with a half dozen more questions about where he came from. That is, until recently …

After 15 years away from a comic shop I saw a tweet from Chris Brogan as he was headed to his local comic shop. One thing led to another and within 48 hours I ended up in a local comic book shop for the first time in at least 15 years.

I picked up a book called “Wolverine Origin.” It’s a compilation of a 6 issue series written some years ago that chronicles where my favorite character came from. How could I pass that up!? An hour here and an hour there and I finished the book. I am not sure what I expected to get out of reading that story, but now much of the mystery was, for the most part, gone. I knew his origin.

Wolverine

He is a fictional character of course, so he himself did not reveal those details about his life himself. You, on the other hand, are not fictional. Although someone else is not telling your story, someone else is willing to collect and sell it. That someone is Facebook.

Facebook Timeline Profiles Bring Your Story to Life

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was on stag recently to announce a drastic new change to the familiar personal profiles we are used to seeing. Profiles are now viewed as timelines. The new Facebook timeline feature is structured in such a way to get users to now write and reveal the back issues to their life. A “back issue” refers to a past or out of print copy of a periodical like a comic book. If you missed an issue or started reading a title later in the series but wanted to catch up with the earlier parts of the story you had to hunt down back issues to fill in what you missed. The Facebook timeline is on the hunt now for the back issues of your life.

Now people can fill in stories and details about themselves that were never possible to include on Facebook or any other social network. It provides a perfect place to upload all of those old paper photos that you have collected and digitized. You can now go back in time and note every important event that happen in your life including when you broke a leg, bought a new house or got a an award. The canvas to paint the masterpiece that is your life story is there. They have provided it. All you need to do is fill in the blanks. Tell your origin. Reveal the details that led up to who you are now…. mutant hero or not. Sounds great right? Well I’ll get to that in a second.

The Consumer of Data!

Facebook is doing its best to understand your story and collect every back issue they can find. Due to the way the real-time web works on sites like Facebook and Twitter it was previously near impossible to fill in the blanks. After a few days Facebook would gather up all the details that were shared, put them in a box and then toss them into the closet to be data mined. Profile features such as your photos, videos and personal information such as your job, interests and relationship status were accesible, but that just simply isn’t enough for Facebook. They want to bring it all back to the surface.

Don’t get me wrong, companies like Google, Apple and others are collecting plenty of data as well, but what the Facebook timeline feature is doing is unprecedented. If not for what it reveals to 3rd parties, but what it collects for its own coffers. Mark Zuckerberg said during his F8 keynote that Facebook’s focus was now shifting focus from getting more users signed and connected to increased sharing and engagement. The most important bi-product of sharing and engagement is user data. The Facebook timeline profiles, in combination with the persistently streaming data displayed in the new ticker expose more detail about clients, customers, friends and family than ever before. Now boasting over 800 million active users Facebook has the most incredible collection of social data on people that human history has ever witnessed.

Good vs Evil … Depends on Perspective & Trust

Now whether this sounds great to you likely depends on your perspective. If you are a digital marketer then you might be rubbing your hands together in excitement at the sound of even more useful data to help target your marketing efforts.

A user’s point of view would be different. My concern lies with that of the user’s and their ability to truly grok what they are getting into when they start to put in work, handing over the back issues of their lives, revealing their complete origin. There is an honor system thing happening. We believe that Facebook and others will do the honorable thing with the information we provide them. That it will remain anonymous when shared with 3rd parties.

Should Users Reveal Their Origin?

The issue of online privacy and just how much personal information we share with social networks has been around for years. It’s not new. As a heavy user of Facebook I have had no issue sharing and engaging there with little hesitation. Partially because I have a strong understanding the risks and it influences my activity there. The new timeline profile, persistent ticker and new social app capabilities that allow what Zuckerberg called “frictionless sharing” have caused me to hesitate for the first time. I believe now is the time for users to step more slowly and carefully than ever. Facebook wants to subscribe to the story of your life moving forward and they hope that you will give them all of the back issues to round out their collection. The tools they are providing developers and the features they are releasing will enable them to do this at a larger scale than ever.

Has Facebook just extended the boundaries of privacy farther than ever before or has nothing changed? What are your thoughts on this?

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About the Author

Adam Helweh

Adam is CEO of Secret Sushi Creative Inc, a strategic design, digital and social media marketing agency. He specializes in the convergence of design and technology to provide businesses with more intelligent and interactive ways to connect with customers and grow. His clients have included Edelman, Broadcom, Stanford Federal Credit Union, the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Bunchball and others. He's also the co-host of the "SoLoMo Show", a weekly digital marketing podcast, and he has shared the stage with professionals from companies including Facebook, Virgin Airlines, Paypal, Dell and 24 Hour Fitness.