Many media outlets, both traditional and web, have been covering the upcoming compulsory introduction of Facebook Timeline, which is causing quite a stir, and the main response seems to be one of fear and dislike. Sophos, the technology security company, conducted a survey of 4,110 people, which found that more than half of the respondents are worried by Facebook Timeline.
That's a very significant percentage, with the second most popular response being "I don't know why I'm still on Facebookâ€ with 32.36%. But will this fear and backlash blow over, or will the changes be largely accepted when they come, like most of the past changes Facebook has made?
Will People Leave Facebook?
In the case of both Facebook and Google, the most obvious thing to do if you don't like the changes they make is to stop using the services. However, this is likely to be too hard for many people who are so accustomed to the services and would feel out of the loop if they were to leave. So either people vote with their online feet or accept the changes, but are the Facebook changes really all that groundbreaking?
They are presenting information that you, the user, have made public to whoever you have selected as your audience, but just making it searchable by date, so if you've always had your profile on private and haven't put anything questionable on it, then it doesn't sound like the Timeline change will affect you too much. Although it is disconcerting that people will be able to see what we posted on a certain date and have a glimpse into our pasts. At any rate, the introduction of Timeline is a good reason to examine and debate why and how we use social media.
Will how we use Facebook change?
Do we have to accept that Facebook can be, depending how you use it, an online diary of sorts, and that we are freely making personal information available by posting on it? If we didn't want anyone to know about our personal life, we'd be better off using an actual diary and avoiding the site entirely. Or are we entitled to be in complete control of how our history is presented on Facebook, and have they gone too far this time?
It seems likely that the Timeline changes will prompt some users to opt for private profiles if they haven't already, in order to protect their history, and exercise greater control over what they post, as this PCWorld article details how to 'lockdown' your profile. But equally for some users, it may not prompt a change in their behaviour at all.
There's still some time to go until the changes become compulsory, so we'll have to wait and see how the debate plays out over the coming days. To return to the figure of over 50% of respondents saying Timeline worries them, we must wonder why - are we scared of Facebook Timeline because it makes our information more accessible to others, or because it offers us a mirror view of our online selves, a subjective look at our lives, that cuts too close to the bone?