Facebook Timeline: Back Issues Of Your Life
Facebook Timeline: Back Issues Of Your Life
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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?

Check out some interesting views on the topic with these articles:

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  • I’m actually uncomfortable with the thought that someone else can put together my life by just looking over my social networking profiles. Sure, the thought seems innocent and nostalgic enough for close ties, but it almost always begs the question of, are you providing TMI?

    • Personally, I feel comfortable with what I share because I am “in the know” so to speak. It is the majority of the 800 million Facebook users who I am more concerned about. 

  • I thought your readers may be interested to know that there
    is already a great place where you can preserve your life memories in
    chronological order, free at http://www.saveeverystep.com. Inspired by the loss of my
    mother and subsequent discovery that I was pregnant, the site was designed to
    be a place to capture your own personal history – the kind of questions that
    your kids will never think to ask until it’s too late, and the precious
    memories you make together as a family that they won’t remember when they’re
    older……If the Facebook route isn’t for you, create a legacy for your
    children here – life, in the order it happens, on a shareable timeline. You can
    create lifelines for ALL the family in one place, with words and pics side by
    side. Check it out or say Hi at ‘SaveEveryStep’ on Facebook or Twitter!

  • As I always being saying, I enjoy reading your blog, and it is relevant to the daily life of the people now. I am looking forward to read more thoughts and ideas here in your site.

    Online Business
    Virtual Assistant

  • I’m studying Social Media with @dr4ward at @NewhouseSU Im excited to be following your blog now! #NewhouseSM4 Facebook is getting crazy and confusing with all the new changes!

  • Good post Thanks for sharing such a valuable information with us

  • Facebook timeline is like myspace, lol! But its a unique and different approach. I think with the sudden changed of facebook nowadays they maybe get some feedbacks from their users it is either negative or positive but the important thing was everyone make a benefits on facebook.

  • Good article! thanks for sharing!

  • I feel the exact same way as you, Adam! I’ve been struggling with these thoughts since F8 last week also.
    On one hand, I work in the marketing industry and understand how excited marketers should be about this new wave and plethora of data. I even know some people who already drooling over it. 
    On the other hand though, as a user I’m a tad bit worried. I knew what was involved with Facebook. Everything I shared could be used for people to gather data on me, BUT that was only things I chose to share. Now with frictionless sharing I don’t get a say in what I share, it’s just going to happen? I don’t think I’m so into that. What about if I read a terrible article? I don’t want people to know I read it, or my friends to read it either, but they might because it’s going to show up in my timeline regardless of if I want it to or not.
    It’s really a tough struggle for me when I think about this from both my marketing and user side. I also haven’t had a chance to actually see what happens yet because my timeline and frictionless sharing haven’t been enabled yet, but believe me, I will tread lightly and do a lot of experimenting at first when it is.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    • When you have your community’s best interests in mind it can be a little difficult when you see things going this direction isn’t it Sheldon?

    • I have the same feeling too. I worked in Digital Marketing industry and I understand countless opportunities the new Facebook going to bring in terms of targeting, brand engagement and creativity promotion campaign. It is exciting really.

      However, thinking of the society’s best interests is another thing. The convention and norm of sharing in social media will be changed. Passive sharing will make people even more unaware of what they are showing and leaving in the global network. Especially the teen, I am not sure everyone understand the consequences. We need to make them aware of the risks and empower them to make their own decision.

      I am doing a master in london now and working on a project on Digital Memory. I started working on an artefact “Re:Memory” to raise awareness of this issue within generation Y. The idea of “Re:Memory” is that users are encouraged to upload their memories in a platform. However, users’ memories, once uploaded, will “disappear” until they suddenly pop up in front of their owners’ eye one day in a special form. It aims to offer users an immersive experience just like they randomly open their drawer, re-engaging with their objects of memory. Besides getting back their memory, the users will also receive some information regarding how to secure their digital memory. The platform alone theoretically speaks and questions the ownership and the difference between human and digital memory.
      Personally, I used to be a heavy user of Facebook, but this time I will be more conservative. 

      http://www.rememory.co
      http://www.facebook.com/memoryBACK

  • I feel the exact same way as you, Adam! I’ve been struggling with these thoughts since F8 last week also.
    On one hand, I work in the marketing industry and understand how excited marketers should be about this new wave and plethora of data. I even know some people who already drooling over it. 
    On the other hand though, as a user I’m a tad bit worried. I knew what was involved with Facebook. Everything I shared could be used for people to gather data on me, BUT that was only things I chose to share. Now with frictionless sharing I don’t get a say in what I share, it’s just going to happen? I don’t think I’m so into that. What about if I read a terrible article? I don’t want people to know I read it, or my friends to read it either, but they might because it’s going to show up in my timeline regardless of if I want it to or not.
    It’s really a tough struggle for me when I think about this from both my marketing and user side. I also haven’t had a chance to actually see what happens yet because my timeline and frictionless sharing haven’t been enabled yet, but believe me, I will tread lightly and do a lot of experimenting at first when it is.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  • Sarah Wood

    Love where you are going with this post; I have been mulling over similar issues over the past week or so, about what makes us who we are are, and how who we are may be different to different people that we know. Particularly around personal relationships, there is a huge potential for hurt and misunderstanding when how you perceive yourself internally is seen and shared in edited format. For those real-life friends who see their place in your lives differently than you do, there is a whole area will come out where these technology-easy timelines may provide more information than you would comfortably share in person – and that opens up a whole can of worms about how honest everyone’s real life is and their relationships in it. I find this whole ethical area fascinating, and will also be proceeding with caution but watching how this runs.

    • Traceychen

      Sarah, I love what you say here. I’ve been thinking the same things. I had always had everything totally public, and I try to be the best person I can be in all situations, and I was encouraging others to not worry and just be open and honest and nice to others on line (thinking this new openness would encourage people to be kinder to each other), but out of respect and love for my friends who don’t want anyone they don’t know seeing posts about their kids, I had to switch my privacy setting to “friends,” which is not what I want. I prefer to have all I do seen by everyone, so that people interested can find me. 

    • Traceychen

      Sarah, I love what you say here. I’ve been thinking the same things. I had always had everything totally public, and I try to be the best person I can be in all situations, and I was encouraging others to not worry and just be open and honest and nice to others on line (thinking this new openness would encourage people to be kinder to each other), but out of respect and love for my friends who don’t want anyone they don’t know seeing posts about their kids, I had to switch my privacy setting to “friends,” which is not what I want. I prefer to have all I do seen by everyone, so that people interested can find me. 

  • After I watched the announcement of timeline I immediately thought of many of the same issues you outline above.  In my opinion Facebook has pulled off the most amazing trick ever in advertising.  By giving us the promise of unprecedented emotional connectivity online (via Timeline and other new FB features) not only are users are going to bare their soul (personal data) with a depth never before seen online  (or anywhere other than within personal relationships) but we are going to go back and fill in the blanks of our personal story before we were on Facebook or online. Can you imagine a brand asking you to do that as part of a direct mail campaign? 

    As people rush to build upon this new level of emotional connectedness I fear that many with discard their concerns over privacy thus giving Facebook the foundation to dismiss privacy concerns in the future.  Users are going to share more personal information than ever before and there’s nothing that’s going to stop that from happening.  But I hope that they will  stop for a moment and take a look around to learn how they can limit how their information is shared online or at least understand the true nature of the social contract they are making with Facebook by baring their soul.

  • Another great post, Adam.  I love Facebook, and in general, I like the new layout and capabilities of Timeline.  But the delving into your past and the frictionless sharing thing is making me queasy.  I have nothing at all to hide, thank god, but I do wonder an awful lot about what will happen next.  Facebook is in dangerous territory.  They had better watch it, or they will end up driving their users into the arms of Google+, or attracting the attention of lawmakers.