The Social Media Evolution: Facebook Timeline Scrapbooks Our Lives

Yesterday, news websites and status updates exploded in despair and awe: Facebook had finally changed for American users; the much-anticipated timeline is here. 

The timeline is as much an elegant redesign as it is a rethinking of the Facebook profile page, and this is what makes it important: The timeline is the next logical step to ensure that Facebook continues to dominate our internet interactions and is going to enable the social network to become even more ingrained in our lives.

To understand why the timeline is so important, it’s first necessary to understand what the timeline is and how it is different. 

On the old Facebook profile page, the most recent stories of an individual’s activity, as well as recent posts from their friends, appear on the profile. Information quickly gets buried and finding activity a few months or years old takes digging. 

With the timeline, however, a user can filter by year and month, able to see a progression – a literal, visual timeline – of activity and posts.

So, what’s significant about this change is not that it enables users to create content or changes how much is seen, but rather that it changes what a profile page is. It’s even worth noting that the timeline isn’t changing what can be seen but rather how easily it can be found. Since users have the power to determine what is seen and how their activity and their lives appear on the profile page, it becomes a more natural personal homepage, scrapbook, and portfolio.

However, the reason the timeline is so powerful is not only because it makes sharing information easier, but also because it has been launched in the era of the Facebook app.

Due to the rising popularity of apps, Facebook has become the natural internet aggregator of personal data. Now, Facebook doesn’t just keep record of our status updates and photo albums, it also has a detailed history of where we’ve checked in, who we’ve been with, what we’re tweeting, what music we’ve been listening to, what news stories we’ve been reading, and what comments we’ve been leaving on PolicyMic

Since most significant websites or digital services have an add-on Facebook app, our digital lives have found a natural home on Facebook. The old profile page, however, was outdated. It was less of a personal profile and more of a personal newsfeed – often clogged up with articles read and songs listened to over the past few days. The timeline is the much-needed update.

The new page doesn’t make it easier for our digital activity to live on Facebook, rather, it makes it easier to present ourselves – tweets, Spotify playlists, Washington Post articles and all – online.  It is undeniable now, for better or for worse, that our digital existence is increasingly dependent on Facebook. 

Photo Credit: Facebook