Facebook – What a difference a day makes

Yesterday I was just thinking about going back to retroactively add in my technology history to my Facebook timeline after a comment from a Wired reader declared that technology journalists should make theirs public to provide context to their articles. Of course, I was going to set it as private and viewable just by me (and I think the suggestion is pretty ridiculous) but it was fun running through the years of gadgets in my mind and putting things like the Retina Macbook in context.

Which made me then think perhaps it would be cool to do the same with just general events from my life that I could remember — going back through my life year by year and adding everything I could think of for each. Again, stored privately but just like a private diary to check back on every once in a while to see how far I’d come.

And then, as if perfectly on cue, news started to spread that Facebook was somehow publishing users’ private messages posted years earlier on the service publicly for all to see on their Timeline. After some bouncing back and forth with friends, denials from the company itself and then closely scrutinising a couple from my own timeline, it seemed clear something fascinating but bizarre had happened.

So I did something I never really thought I’d do — I locked up my whole Facebook page. Other than a few recent posts and innocuous messages, there’s no longer really much to see there.

I originally considered it a temporary move until Facebook announced a bit more news on the issue. But now it’s complete, I simply can’t think why I would make those six years of posts, pictures, videos and app activity public again. Am I really going to go through and tweak the privacy settings message by message?

And it’s not just about laziness, it makes me wonder why I left them visible to anyone but me in the first place.

It’s like the opposite of Pandora’s box — once everything is stashed away privately, there’s no reason to flush them back into the open again. In fact, it makes me want to go further and reign in the various online properties that represent me to more closely resemble what they might be if I set them up right now today.

Facebook arrived when I was in my first year of University, and like many users from that original wave, the majority of connections I have on there were formed online simultaneously to getting to know that person in real life. In some ways it set a dynamic that continued into my professional life, where I arrived in the media just as Twitter was taking the spotlight.

But I do love the serendipity of Facebook. In fact, ironically, even my post on there talking about the big Facebook issue ended up introducing two friends to one another that were both interested in a topic. And in looking through my old posts I found brilliant articles that had come up from my travels across the internet like this one.

Where else can I share something quickly with a huge group of friends (or colleagues, or family, or any group I choose) and it’ll actually create some fun interactions?

What’s my current position? I’m going to sleep on it for a couple of days. But sometimes, when the veil is lifted on a habit, it’s hard to go back to the old way of looking at things. And it must be a concern for Facebook tonight how many other users have found themselves suddenly in the same boat that I’m in.

- Max Tatton-Brown

September 25th, 2012