Facebook’s Timeline: it’s not all bad news

Facebook’s Timeline feature is regarded by many people as a huge step backwards for social network privacy.

Facebook's Timeline: it's not all bad news

Is this concern actually justified? For me, the answer is yes and no: yes, because your posts are more exposed since they’re easier to find no matter how old; no, because it’s fairly easy to configure your privacy options to restrict who can see what, when and where.

According to Facebook’s marketing machine, the Timeline is designed to be a “story of your life”, collecting everything you’ve done within the social networking sphere and dumping it all onto a single screen.

Actually, “dumping” is a little unfair: it collates rather than dumps, with more popular and relevant things taking priority, and it will be spread over several screens if you’re a Facebook veteran. The Timeline rolls your old profile page and “Wall” into a single entity, and you now have no choice but to accept it or leave Facebook.

Some people I know hated the idea so much they’ve packed their handbags and scarpered, but most have hung around and realised it isn’t really so bad after all.

Personally, I like its new look and think that much of the privacy furore has been overblown – essentially, any of your posts that were visible before are still visible now. Your older posts, previously lost in the mists of online time, are now easier to find by a quick click on the year button on the right of the Timeline frame, which jumps to that period.

Privacy tweaking

That might mean you need to do a bit of privacy tweaking, if the way you’re using Facebook now is very different from the way you did in the past – for example, there might be posts that were suitable for one circle of friends that aren’t now what you want your current circle of business contacts to see. Or perhaps you’ve grown up and are embarrassed by your past activities. So how do you deal with such matters in the new Timeline?

First you need to understand that privacy expectations have changed over the years, so posts you were once happy to have shared on a “public” basis may now be better restricted to the eyes of only your friends. The first thing I did after I converted to the Timeline was to make use of its “Limit past posts” function.

Navigate to your privacy settings via the dropdown menu using the arrow to the right of the Home link at the top of the screen, then select the “Manage Past Post Visibility” link in the “Limit the Audience for Past Posts” section.

From here you can change all the content that’s previously been shared with the public (or friends of friends) to being shared with friends only. Hitting the “Limit past posts” button won’t stop anyone who’s already seen the stuff, but it hides your post history from folk you may not want to see it from now on.

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