The Facebook Timeline

By Samara Abramson

Social media has become one of the most prominent facets of our generation, and while Facebook reigns at the top of the spectrum, its constant changes have people all over the world asking: how much more change can we take?

Facebook

One of the top stories this week is Facebook’s decision to begin requiring users to switch to a new profile format known as the Timeline.

We all remember the early days of Facebook, back in 2007, when profile viewing was easy, the news feed was simple and our addictions were greater than they are now. Over the past five years, Facebook has gone through more puberty than most of us. Remember when there was no “like” button?

While the Associated Press describes the new Timeline as a scrapbook of your entire life on Facebook, its futuristic format makes me to wonder whether or not this is the last stage. A recent TIME article by Ben Bajarin, called “The Beginning of the End for Facebook,” asserted that people are spending less and less time on Facebook and that user growth has decreased.

Is the Timeline Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg’s way of bidding farewell or is its new and, supposedly improved, appearance simply raising the stakes for social media as it has been doing from the very beginning? I have created scrapbooks in the past, after returning from a vacation, at the end of a school year or from a party. A scrapbook is a nice way to reflect on all of the memories, and unless you leave the last several pages empty, the likes of it are usually put on display for viewing, but not for editing.

In thinking about the evolution of social media, I am reminded of Facebook’s roots that began in the days of AOL Instant Messenger, or as it was pronounced then,”aim”.. I remember the days of middle school when I would sit on AIM for hours, simultaneously attempting to do homework. A profile back then was a simple white box we would decorate with colorful fonts such as Impact, Helvetica and Georgia, listing out the initials of all of our best friends, accompanied by a quote along the lines of , “Summer: when the waves kiss your feet, the sand is your seat and your friends outnumber the stars.” Oh, sweet, seventh grade memories.

When away messages that read “BRB, showering, LOL!” got old, some of us moved on to MySpace. I remember having a MySpace for about a year; my dad wouldn’t let me use my full name and when I did periodically sign in, I spent most of that time decorating my page rather than interacting socially. Needless to say, MySpace’s prevalence at the top of the social media spectrum was short-lived. After that, Facebook took over our lives. And then it took over our parents’ lives as we wondered, horrifically, “Why does my mom have a Facebook?”

What we have now learned as college students is that while Facebook is a great place to showcase the fun you’re having away at school and how much you’ve grown since the days of AIM, it is also an important place to begin making professional connections. Tools such as “Facebook + Journalists” allow users to interact in a community of shared interest and occupation. The page notes that “the average journalist has seen a 320 percent increase in subscribers since Nov. 2011.” Facebook is helping with professional networking; but so are other websites, like Twitter. Essentially, the world of social media is, and always has been, ever changing. I can’t help but wonder: what’s next?

Still, why must the Timeline be mandatory? It is true that the amount of time users are spending on the site is declining, so Zuckerberg needed to find a way to get people to stay on Facebook for longer periods of time. Because this format provides users with easy accessibility to content from over five years ago, people may find it necessary to go back and delete embarrassing pictures or posts. Freelance writer Chrissa Chverchko writes, “Critics of the Timeline say that it’s information overload. Facebook is well aware that a biography may make some people unhappy. At the same time, the Facebook Timeline was created to please advertisers, not the people using the site”. All of the time users may be spending deleteting old content over the next couple of weeks will provide Facebook with the advertising time necessary to stay on top.

Yes, Facebook has set the standard pretty high when it comes to social media, but what will the Timeline do to the number of users on the site? My prediction is that several individuals will visit Facebook less and less in the upcoming months due to lack of knowledge regarding how to maneuver the new format. When the Timeline first came out, I said, “If Facebook forces me to convert, I will delete my account.” While I may have changed my mind since then, I am sure that many other people have not. This may be the predicted end of Facebook as we know it.

Samara Abramson is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]