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Published on March 19th, 2012

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The Trouble with Timeline

By Sarah Spencer

Recently, the familiar world of Facebook (a social networking site intended for keeping in contact with friends), has transformed into what has been labelled ‘Fakebook’. This has given rise to questions about our privacy and Facebook’s future, especially with the arrival of the Timeline function.

Australian Privacy Foundation vice-chair, David Vaile said that many people are seduced by the promises of Facebook, thinking they are in control of their own privacy, despite the fact the company have “reduced the protections dramatically for the last five years”.

At the risk of sounding like a party-pooper, David said the social networking giant should be noting that  actions do have consequences, and should encourage a bit of caution. “Facebook does exactly the opposite, so they are behaving like a naughty teenager,” he said.

However, many Facebook users believe it offers an outlet, reducing stress and anxiety, and offering a small escape from reality. Self-renown Facebook fanatic and uni student, Emma Young said, “Not only is it a good way to pass time while on the bus to uni, it’s a handy tool to see what your friends did on the weekend, and you can upload photos and statuses about yourself to keep everyone else involved in your life. It makes you feel included in your own little internet world, and loved when someone likes or comments on your material”.

So what does Timeline have in store for us?  The new function shows our whole history on the site, acting as biographer by digging up past photos and statuses which we may have thought were buried for good.

David said Timeline will add to the intrinsic problems of Facebook’s current dangerous and disrespectful business model. “The Timeline is trawling through your past. It adds fuel to the fire at just the right moment,” he said.

Emma had a different viewpoint. “If you posted things in the past and you didn’t mind people seeing them then, it shouldn’t bother you now. And there’s always the option to delete/un-tag past posts,” she said.

But is Facebook really a way for us to keep in contact, or merely a popularity contest of who has the most friends?

David said, “If there are any concerns about this, people might get bored and stop using it after they realise that having 500 friends isn’t the answer to everything. In fact, most of them aren’t friends and quite a few of them aren’t even humans.”

He explained that many people on facebook behave as if the paparazzi are interested in every little thing that they do. “Facebook is an extremely successful marketer of the idea that self-exposure is just good. They encourage people to think this is some sort of nowhere land, the traditional fantasy idea of cyberspace, where the world can’t get you. In reality, the absolute opposite is the truth.”

However, Emma said, “For me, it is definitely a way to keep in touch with friends from all walks of life who I may not see very often. Although, it does seem that the younger generation pride themselves on having hundreds of friends”.

With over 800 million people joining the cyber world of Facebook, it is unclear whether these security issues will be addressed and what the future holds.

 “It seems as though Facebook is just a phase that will pass, but it has become a part of so many people’s lives, young and old, and they use it for different reasons,” Emma said. “So unless another, more advanced option becomes available, I can’t see Facebook dying off any time soon”.

Research analyst, Foad Fadaghi, from Australian technology company Telsyte,  agreed that as a society we are preachers of our social services; humans now crave Facebook’s brand of interactivity. “Social networking is not going to go away. It has been around a lot longer than Facebook has been around, but Facebook currently does it better than anyone else,” he said.

Whether Timeline will affect Facebook’s future, or if our youth will begin to worry about their online security is yet to be seen. So the real question is: is Facebook soon to crumble, or will we forever be slaves to notifications?



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