In the last couple months I’ve been hearing about this new product being launched called Facebook Timeline. Today I watched a brief teaser that was shown at a social media conference by Facebook’s own Alfredo Tan, it was only a short minute-long promo and as I sat alongside of a room full of ‘oohing and ahhing’ marketers, and social media community, my initial reaction was discomfort and fear.
So, Facebook Timeline. Here is this very cool idea – A natural progression for anyone using Facebook. People already post images, make comments, talk about what they did that day, and geotag said comments. Taking all that data and simply reorganizing it in a chronological order is a logical step. The attraction to be able to look back at what you were doing even a couple years ago to reflect on an event or even more likely the little minutia of everyday life is fuel for nostalgia, hell we are all personal voyeurs. Conversations with your Facebook friends could extend to comparing what you were doing the week of July 23rd, 2006. It adds a new level of dimension to viewing your content the same way Google earth took simple satellite imagery and allowed you to spin the globe itself and find your favorite old watering hole. It’s one of these head slapping, ‘of course’ Ideas that you know will be a winner.
There is this insane landslide in the industry whose current has swept me along with such force that I was not able to stop myself. It took me some time to grab on to a branch to stop the momentum. I think about how easy it was for me to post and share hundreds of pictures of myself doing everyday things, me at the pub, a party, my child's birthday celebrations, you name it. How thoughtlessly I posted my whereabouts, my interests of the minute, daily health reports, the lot. How I literally cataloged all my likes and wants, who my friends and family were and where to find them. A veritable cornucopia of marketing data all hand delivered and stored by complete strangers. My mother would be mortified. Airing family business globally. I mean really.
So here’s Timeline. As I sat watching this teaser all I thought was, ‘is this right?’. I thought of my kid, their life, first day of school, prom, graduation, marriage, kids, all stacked, cataloged, stored by this stranger. Just typing this makes me sick to my stomach. And I know the millions that will line up to give up all those precious details away.
I am reminded of a film that starred Robin Williams called, The Final Cut [imdb] . The premise being every person is embedded with a chip that records everything they experience from birth to death, the ‘footage’ is then edited by a cutter and played at their funeral, and held as a keepsake. A wondrous invention to be sure, but as many stories go, corruption is discovered and the footage is used and twisted unethically. Isn’t this the first step?
So why am I uneasy? For me it lies deeply in the same reason I quit Facebook months ago.
Facebook is not a stranger to controversy surrounding its practices on how they use the personal data (which is peaking out at 800 million active users and growing). The thought of giving up even more of our personal lives to a company scares the hell out of me. It’s a culture change I am not ready for. But slowly with the launch of iCloud, my files leave my hands to a strangers machine, floating God knows where, accessible to God knows who. Backed up, tracked, read, recorded, printed out, filed… it’s out there, and I don’t trust that it’s safe, or in good hands. But slowly out of convenience, out of my need to play, to experiment, off go these personal files, pictures, stories, too many commas in succession, I give away to strangers with the assumption my privacy will be respected.
For me this has crossed my comfort level. Perhaps the current will sweep me off my feet again and I will become another of the cataloged masses, but for now I will watch in morbid curiosity.