With the Timeline, Facebook also introduced Life Events. These are “special” posts that are highlighted on the Timeline to celebrate memorable moments in your life. They include categories like Work and Education, Family and Relationships, Home and Living, Health and Wellness, and Travel and Experiences.
While you can create your own Life Event by clicking “Other,” Facebook is defining for us what an “important” moment is. They have created the Life Events that they find to be normal or acceptable.
Beyond creating your own Life Event by clicking on the Life Event button on your Timeline page, Facebook also automatically creates Life Events for you if you make certain changes to your profile. For example, if you change your current place of residence, Facebook creates a “Moved” Life Event. If you get married, the site also creates a “Got Married” Life Event. Yet, if you get divorced, no Life Event is created automatically. In fact, Facebook blocks the update from others’ Newsfeeds completely. (See the About page on this site for more information regarding relationship statuses.)
Something to think about when it comes to creating your narrative on Facebook is what the introduction of a timeline does to that narrative. Unlike a scrapbook or photo album that can be tucked away, your life’s history is laid out for all to see on your Timeline.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, has been quite clear what he thinks it means to be authentic. He claims that we only have one identity and the days of having multiple images that span professional, personal, and familial contexts are numbered. Zuckerberg claims that to have more than one identity shows a lack of integrity. Instead, we should be consistent. Hence the creation of Timeline for Facebook users.
Consistency is the real issue here. It is quite often that when we say “authentic” we really mean “consistent.” If you act differently with a group of people than you did a year before, they may think that you are being “fake,” but really you have just changed. Change is a good thing and consistency shouldn’t define how “real” you are. The Timeline, on the other hand, forces users to think about all of their past selves and show their past selves to their networks, making it harder to break away and change for the better. If you want to read more about Facebook’s Timeline and consistency, please check out my book chapter
Although the introduction of the Timeline has changed the Facebook culture, and although many options cannot be changed, there are some ways to enact agency and make the site follow your own rules.
First, you can always control what is on your Timeline by constantly monitoring what others post and what others tag you in. You can also customize the privacy settings for each of your new posts or uploads. (I talk more about this on the Friends page of this site.) You also don’t have to go along with Facebook’s structure. You can date posts any date you want and not worry about acting consistently to feel yourself. And, you can create fun Life Events using the “Other” option, calling your friends’ attention to the moments that you think are most important.
Beyond taking a more active role now, you should also look back to previous posts and uploads. When Facebook first switched from the Wall to Timeline, users noticed that many of their old posts and uploads suddenly became publically visible. You can easily manage your whole Timeline. Click on the lock to the right of your name and then click on “Who can see my stuff?” From there you can access your “Use Activity Log.” On this page you can view everything you have done and searched on the site. Be sure to click the “more” links on the left. To specifically review and edit your Timeline, just click on “Timeline Review.”
Formerly known as your Wall, Facebook’s Timeline is the collection of almost everything you have ever done on the site. It shows your profile picture, cover photo, status updates, uploaded pictures, Life Events, and so on. Timeline lists all of these things in reverse chronological order starting at birth. As Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated at F8 2011, “Timeline is the story of your life.”
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