Did someone pay this Pete “Cashmore” of CNN to write this glowing review of Facebook’s timeline feature? You know, the timeline feature that’s slated to launch five days from today, that everyone’s already sampled through a mock-exclusive loophole where you convince Facebook you’re a developer to gain access? His reasons for liking it are exactly why I don’t like it. Here we go.
Rather than just displaying your most recent activities, your profile will become a scrapbook documenting your entire life, all the way back to your birth.
Yes, and that’s not at all creepy.
Facebook will become a record of your existence: All your memories, your victories and your defeats, your loves, your losses and everything in between.
And neither is that. There’s definitely nothing that any of us should worry about around documenting our entire existence on teh faceplace, riiiiight? … But for a moment, never mind the totalitarian implications.
The timeline presumes that all our lives have been happy and normal and upwardly mobile. The Facebook timeline promo video paints it like we all won spelling bees, then graduated from college, got married, and made babies. Or, it draws the conclusion that we want to portray a similar trajectory, regardless of what really happened / is happening.
I think my four-point-one-seven loyal readers know that I tend to bear it all on the internet. I’m not exactly the poster child for online privacy, ya heard? But even I have large chunks of time in my life I’d rather not puzzle-piece together into a pretty picture for Facebook.
For example, I can let go of that six month period when I wore a tambourine strapped to my hip. It was, perhaps, a contrivance…
And fat camp? Oh, fat camp. Somewhere I still have the “before” photo of my nine-year old self, big bellied and knock-need in a navy blue and white horizontally striped bathing suit. That photo was my first ever before picture, from my first summer at weight loss camp (of SIX summers). Aside from being an overweight kid with unmanageable hair, the look on my face in that loathsome photo is confused and apprehensive. Like my current self is whispering into her ear, “Take it slowly, little one. You’ll be doing this for the rest of your fucking life.” So that’s six childhood summers eliminated from my timeline…
Another hiccup in the timeline plan: I’m missing all of the photos I took myself, with my own finger pushing the shutter, from 1994 through 1997. Yah. Those were all … we can just call them lost. I have none from those years. None from Tibet and China, where I spent a whole summer. None from the Florida Keys, where I spent a semester. No memories of my very own, aside from what’s in my head. So there’s that gap to fill.
Then, there’s the final and slightly more weighty decision (no pun) of whether to ignore everything between 1993 and 1999, or to fill those years in to look like something tidier than what really took place. Since I don’t do “life lite”, chances are you’ll have to wait for the memoir for all that.
Suddenly your life is laid out before you, the highs and lows somehow pinpointed by Facebook’s algorithms … [you can] choos[e] to feature your happiest memories, hide the inconsequential ones, and [linger] awhile on the most bittersweet of moments. And you’ll realize, as I did, that Facebook knows you better than you know yourself.
What. The fuck. Is this dude talking about.
a) No machine will ever know me better than myself, my partner, and maybe the 2-3 other people who love me most.
b) If I ever start to think this is coming to pass, please send help. Encourage me to reconnect with myself. Maybe ask me when I last wrote fiction or did yoga, because if Facebook ever starts to know me better than I know myself I’m in a bad way. If it does happen – if I admit that Facebook might know me better than I know myself – then ask me if I’m okay with that. Because if I’m okay with it, I’m in an even worse way.
c) No, sir. You’re incorrect about what people will linger over. Most of us will probably eagerly reveal the “most bittersweet” of moments, you cliche-factory. The bittersweet moments humanize us and make our Facebook personas well rounded. What we’ll hide is the embarrassing stuff. The details we no longer want front-and-center.
This ability to customize shouldn’t be confused with “privacy”, whatever that is. It’s all still there, hanging around on some server. The control we have is about image, which is the very foundation of Facebook.
We’ve all cultivated these personal brands to emulate a slightly better version of ourselves. I’ll admit it. I’m not above cropping a photo to take the focus off my upper arms (it really is a trouble area, especially as I get older…) but I still remain essentially the person I am. For better or worse, I put it out there. What the new timeline does, aside from laying some nice fresh asphalt on the path to a freakishly self-imposed Orwellian tragicomedy, is encourage us to shellac our already semi-artificial online personas; to add another layer of phony between the real and the perceived. And that’s a tragedy. Like we haven’t already designed a hundred million ways to be guarded, closed off weirdos in the online world… (Sent a business email lately?)
And finally, Morecash’s final assessment (or whatever his name is)…
It’s a marvel of computer programming: An algorithm that comes eerily close to emulating human memory…
Raise your hand if you want your computer to decide on your behalf what, in your life, is worth remembering and documenting publicly…
ps. please like this post on facebook. ;-)