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Watch Out: Facebook’s New Timeline has the Potential to Embarrass You

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Before I dive into this post, I would like to note that I have been using the new Timeline profile for the last week (How? You can try it out by following these steps) and I absolutely am enjoying it and think it’s revolutionary. This post is not to deter you from using Facebook as often once Timeline is unveiled to all, but more so to alert you that if you are not self-aware of all the features, you may be subject to (mild) humiliation and shame from your near and dear Facebook friends.

What do I mean? Facebook’s new Timeline profile is going to enable users to share everything – literally. You are now able to share what you listen to, watch, read, and even the day you took your first breath (a time when Facebook wasn’t even conceived). To many, this is a great way to keep a digital scrapbook of sorts to reflect on your life, past and present. To others, this is super invasive and leaves people feeling like they’re baring all on the web. Fortunately, if you fall between the two extremes and you want to share some, but not all, of those little quirks that make you “you,” there are customizable features to keep those embarrassments behind closed doors.

Auto-Share:  Secretly Got Bieber Fever? Not-So-Secret Now.

One of the newest features of Facebook, revealed at the f8 conference last week, is Auto-Share. Auto-Share works in conjunction with the new Ticker that rolled out to users recently. Whenever you listen to a song socially through music applications, such as Spotify, it is recorded in the Ticker as new user activity. The same now goes for Netflix shows and movies, also revealed at the f8 conference. This is a neat way to see what people are listening to/watching to discover new media for yourself, but the downside is that the next time your playlist is streaming and say, Justin Bieber comes on, all of your friends will see it (true story, it happened to me, and was subjected to a series of “LOL”s from some of my friends. Sigh.). While I can take the heat, some people do not want to share their guilty pleasures. Luckily now (now meaning within the hour as I am writing this blog) Spotify has come out with a new feature to “privately listen” to your music that will not display in the Ticker. Go to file and click on “Private Listen” and watch as your Boy Band playlist doesn’t get shared into your social stream again. Unfortunately, Netflix and other music applications have not yet followed suit, so beware (old-fashioned mp3 players/dvds may be your way to go)!

Flashback to 2006: Status Update “OMG I love him soooo much 4ever <3 x0x”

Some of us (yes, referring to myself) latched on to Facebook in the early years and didn’t quite understand what it meant to post “relevant content.” In Facebook’s current layout, once a post is pushed down the feed by other status updates, it tends to drop off into a black hole where you can only revisit it by clicking the “Older Posts” for the next 6 or so hours. This is good for all those irrelevant posts that you’d rather have hidden, but not in Timeline anymore. Since Timeline is set up to record the story of your life, Facebook style, it now logs all of your Facebook updates and activity easily by year, then month. Users can go in and visit your profile from back in, say, 2006 and see that “so-and-so” was the apple of your eye, only to now know that you would rather find the nearest bridge than revisit that relationship. Any other embarrassing content can fall under this category of “I really do not want ANYBODY to see this stuff again,” and luckily you can ensure that they won’t. On the new Timeline profile, there will be a button called “view activity” for you to click and see a history of all your posts. Find any posts you want to be hidden and click on the arrow next to them and select “Hide from Timeline.” Presto, you’ve now filtered your Facebook life!

Facebook wants to Feature my Bowl Haircut, Coke-Bottle Glasses, & Overalls, Circa 1992?

Mark Zuckerberg’s whole reasoning behind the Facebook Timeline profile is that it completes the “conversation.” You’ve already shared your recent life on Facebook, but what about the things that happened in time before Facebook existed? Timeline enables all the missing years of your life from Facebook in the new profile, leading back to the day you were born. You can add in previous life events such as marriages, births, deaths, graduations, even broken bones and surgeries. You can upload pictures to fill in the gaps from when you were a child, or an awkward teen, to complete your digital scrapbook. Some people are excited to tell their lives in this hybrid blog / scrapbook style setup, but others are freaked. I personally would like to share some of my cuter moments as a toddler, but would like to refrain from publicizing those 8th-grade photos decked out with braces, glasses, and frizzy hair. Guess what? I can! Many people think that they must go in and fill up all these missing years as part of the new Timeline, when in reality you have the power to reveal, or hide, whatever you’d like. If there’s something you’d like to share, such as the birth of a child, use the “+” button and select the milestone. Add in a photo, caption, description, location, and date. The nice thing is that you can choose the privacy settings, whether it’s a public post, friends only, or custom.  Since there is also an “only me” option, you can very well upload certain things you’d rather not publicize, but retain them digitally for your own memories.

Hopefully these pointers on customization and privacy settings ease your mind about the new Facebook Timeline profile. Just because you have the power to reveal your whole life story through the social networking site, doesn’t mean you have to do it.

For more information on the recent Facebook changes, visit our blog post compilation “Navigate Your Way Through the Latest Facebook Changes.”

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