Monday, October 3, 2011

Facebook Timeline and the Perils of Oversharing

The new features of Facebook were announced a week and half ago with showy, real-life feed shown-where else, on their own "f8"-page. Anticipation is high in the air. What kind of new tricks and gimmicks have Zuckie and his pals   invented this time to  waste/consume/spend our time with? To begin with, as I commented during his speech, the logo looks somewhat similar:

Ring a bell? Has it been so long from the end of "Lost"? The first image is the official logo from the Facebook new change launch. The latter, well, is the logo of the "Dharma Initiative". I guess the bluebook-boys (and girls) are fans of the show. In any case, my comment was swiftly moved. Or disappeared to the abyss of the web. Charming coincidence.

Back to the topic of hand. What are the new changes waiting us all inside the great FB? Besides linking us together, Facebook now wants to be able to influence what we watch, hear, read and buy. Netflix, Hulu, Washington Post, Ticketmaster and Spotify among others are moving inside Facebook. "Like"- button will have other verbs, although the negative ones most definitely won´t be entering the menu. And this is just the beginning. It could be argued that it almost feels like the entire web experience is being swallowed inside the FB. And globally speaking, when FB indeed is currently the second most  opened site of the web in general, am I wrong to imply that?

"Facebook Timeline" is the major term on everyone´s lips as of speaking. (The chosen  term actually has postponed the renewal of the site, as a small web company from Chicago decided to sue the big blue book for using their  own name. Well, we all know this will be settled in no time. Money talks and... Let´s leave it at that, shall we?) What does "Timeline" imply for us common folks? Short and sweet, it is a practical face lift for the old profile. The main picture is bigger and bolder, and your personality with all its myriad epitomes is better conceptualized and communicated for your chosen audience. The idea is to enable dynamic view on your life, past and future. Electric diary of one sort-only to be shared with your preferred audience. Naturally, the idea is to get us more immersed into the world of Facebook and share more information of ourselves.

Looks like something you desire as an upgrade? Want to feel like one of the hip early adopters? For the majority, this is not open yet. But wait! By signing up as a "developer", you can try to change your profile into the new sleek look. Instructions for example here. Or here.  At present, around 100 000 people are signing up as "developers" per day.

Increasingly, our online- and offline- life is being watched and defined through the renewed Facebook. Can you choose to leave your embarrassing movie options outside its watchful eye? Maybe, but it most certainly will be difficult. All this information of your consumption habits will be made open for your friends to see, and hopefully have an effect on their shopping habits. Not to mention of the bigger, corporate significance. Next to this picture, the information gathered from your chain store vip cards pales in comparison. It may be time to suggest that Facebook will never start charging you for using their site- why should they? If anything, it should be the other way around in exchange for giving personal information. As it is the case, "we the people" are not Facebook´s customers -the advertisers are. And boy, are they eager to get their hands on that ever-growing personal data.

The question of privacy is tricky in an era, when an increasing amount of people just do not care whether their  identity is  open for discussion. We share and exist through our public personas, and it may be time that the whole concept of "fame" or "public" is redefined. Last week´s news on the upcoming (18.10) Facebook "tv-show" called "Aim High", which uses actual personal data and images of all the profiles, went largely unnoticed. So did the little tidbit on how FB tracks its users even when they are not logged in to the service. (The instructions on how to stop the tracking, are here. ) It is almost as we have quietly accepted this little exchange of info in order to gain access. And the bottom line is, nobody has to be logged in. Or share everything. But then again, it is a handy little tool to keep your contacts in check. After all, upon hearing of the looming changes most of the people seem to be worried of only one thing: how to stop people of seeing those embarrassing tracks on your "Spotify" playlists.