Talking tech since 2003

The introduction of new programs or software often has the effect of fundamentally changing the way we interact with long-established ones. The Street View program turned Google Maps from a resource for directions into a photo gallery of the world. YouTube MP4 converters turned a video website into a legitimate music source. And, now, the Timeline redesign has turned Facebook from a traditional social media site into a more encompassing life scrapbook or autobiography.

The Facebook Timeline is an overall of the website’s regular user profile. In the old profile, the most recent status updates, pictures, and wall posts appeared at the top of the screen. To see a post from several months or years ago, a viewer would need to do a good deal of scrolling and searching. The Timeline changes this by adding a sidebar on the left side of every profile. The sidebar lists off all the years during which that profile registered activity. A viewer needs only to click on a year if they want to see pictures or wall posts from that time.This change has garnered mixed reviews from users and from experts. While people are generally complimentary of the design, and although many have expressed an appreciation for being able to reminisce and easily see old posts, a majority of reviewers have expressed privacy-related concerns. With Timeline, any Facebook friend can easily explore one’s online past.

Fortunately, Facebook provides the option of “hiding” anything unwanted that appears in a user’s Timeline. Even though scrolling through years of Facebook activity may seem daunting, this is a worthy pursuit for anyone who is even slightly concerned about their old data, buried under years of new updates. Moreover, this is a task that Facebook users should probably tackle sooner rather than later.

If you’re examining your Facebook past for posts, statuses, and pictures to hide, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

Friends Change, Privacy Settings Stay The Same

If you posted a picture in, say 2007, you might at the time have made it public to all your friends except for your sister and your college professor. When this picture appears now in your Timeline, it will still be hidden from your sister and from that professor – but it will be public for any friends you have added since then, potentially including employers and colleagues. Keep this in mind when you look at old photos.

What Image Do You Want to Convey?

Like it or not, one’s Facebook profile is increasingly a window through which they convey themselves to the world. If you’re applying to jobs or schools, or if you are in a particular line of work, it may be important to cultivate the image you convey. And although you may have been an upstanding citizen for the past two years, it is now extremely easy for people to delve into your past. It may be in your best interest to insure that it’s whitewashed and clean.

What Do You Want To See?

As aforementioned, the new Timeline feature turns the user profile into more of a scrapbook or a personal biography. This certainly means that your friends may enjoy browsing through your younger years, but the main target audience of such a feature is one very specific person: you. Consequently, if your virtual autobiography contains images or posts you’d rather not see (say, from a previous relationship), by all means go ahead and delete them. The Timeline doesn’t have to be a full and accurate account of your life. Rather, it should simply be geared to easily help you reminisce when you chose to do so.

Hopefully these tips can help provide some direction when you set out to “hide” elements from your Timeline’s past. Ultimately, however, the decision of whether to hide or not to hide is based largely on your instincts, reactions, and discretions. Redesign notwithstanding it’s still your Facebook page, after all.

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