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Forever always existed, you just couldn't see it from here until now.

Facebook’s new feature will change the way we think about social media content because it introduces permanence to our digital lives.

Since the beginning of the social media revolution, the structure of the sites we use inspires a fire-and-forget philosophy towards creating content. This is especially true on Twitter, where you can’t even reach past a week into your personal archive without direct links to each update. Facebook had the same issue. Though the content we create on social media platforms exists forever, our inability to reach it led to a certain way of thought. One that is pretty detrimental to users. Facebook’s new Timeline feature, set to go live across all accounts in a week, will change that forever.

Facebook's new Timeline feature.

You won’t understand until you use Timeline just how transparent it is. It shows you every element of your social media life on Facebook from the day you began. All data that was there before, but not easy to get to. People are going to freak out. Not because of the new design, but because they will suddenly realize that everything they’ve said, done, joined or otherwise broadcast on Facebook is there, clear as day, available for anyone with a few minutes of curiosity to see.

People update their profiles and accounts without a real thought towards the long-term consequences of what they put up on the public internet. They figure that because they couldn’t find the content, no one else will. As a result they post things that, perhaps, they shouldn’t.

This is a problem.

Just because services like Twitter and Foursquare lack the functionality for the average user to access and see their lifetime of content doesn’t mean it isn’t accessible. It doesn’t mean that others can’t access it, perhaps the very people you wouldn’t want accessing your social updates. The fact that others can access our information while we can’t, the lack of transparency with these services, is a very bad thing.

By opening access of your information to you (and anyone else) Facebook is going to upset a lot of people because suddenly everyone will easily be able to find everything you’ve done online. That’s good. They should freak out. It’s always been like this (and not just on Facebook) and the average user didn’t realize it.

Facebook revolutionized the way we use the internet when they convinced people to use their real names and pictures to represent themselves online. Now they are confronting people with just how it always worked. I suspect that we’ll see a similar enormous shift in people’s behavior online as a result.

This is the internet you signed up for. It’s not creepy, it’s how social media has always been. Only, no one told you until now.

Welcome to reality.

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  1. Kier on Thursday 22, 2011

    The lack of user understanding has been the key thing that’s caused most of the complaints I’ve seen about previous FB changes.

    For some reason, people fail to think through where their posts go–and that they stick around, somewhere, once they’re out there. I’ll chalk it up to a lack of social media literacy… which is something that desperately needs to be dealt with in a large way.

    Hopefully, this FB update will help since now it’ll be a lot more clear waht’s out there.

  2. […] so) and trying to do so is ethically questionable.My stance supporting transparency has long been on the record. That said, the greater my experience, the more I see that transparency can’t […]