Guest Column: Facebook Timeline review

Stephen Ward

Although planning and preparation for the spring semester is in full gear for many students on campus, the most popular social networking site in the United States is asking users to put down the planner and hop in the DeLorean.

Facebook officially released the Timeline feature, its attempt at churning forward while sideswiping competitors such as Path and Evernote, on user profiles today.

And, as a creature of habit, the company did little to prepare users for the shift, aside from a brief video that’s been on the site’s homepage for about a month now.

So here are some tips to familiarize you with the new features so you can continue lurking randoms in the back of your core humanities class:

Before we begin, it’s worth noting why Facebook upended its entire user experience in the first place. In short, the Timeline shifts the focus from mere interaction with friends to sharing relevant, engaging information that will leave an indelible mark on someone’s profile page. It sounds over analyzed now, but you won’t think of your friends’ profiles the same once your content is streamlined under the “2011” tab on the Timeline.

There are three key changes to the Facebook profile: cover, stories and apps. Lazy bodies, rejoice; only one of these changes — cover — requires you to do anything.

The cover feature allows someone to post a massive landscape-oriented backdrop at the top of his or her profile. It can either be a fond memory, large-scale portrait or scenic identity claim.

After combing through hundreds of profiles, the best use of the cover feature seems to be a picture that accents the page. Your profile picture shows your face, so a portrait superimposed on a portrait is overbearing.

You also run the risk of hurting yourself with group photos on your page. For example, my friend is posing with a considerably more attractive roommate in their cover. Now I’m lurking over his or her page to find that person’s profile. Give yourself a fighting chance; stick to landscapes.

Besides, scenic backdrops making you appear outgoing, lively and well-traveled. Another option would be a banner or pattern that livens the otherwise bland blue color scale of the profile page.

The next feature, stories, provides friends with a tour d’horizon of a particular time period during your life. It helps you remember the highlights of 2011 so you don’t have to read the countless lists from news organizations doing it for you.

There’s nothing really to suggest for this section other than making updates more meaningful. “Stories” nudges you toward using the location services and other features you otherwise wouldn’t in order to catalog memories.

Finally, the “apps” feature gives friends an extensive look at your consumption habits. While it’s obviously a goldmine for advertisers, it has its humanistic advantages as well. For example, friends who link their Spotify, Netflix and other accounts to their page let you see what they’re watching and/or listening to. Gone are the days of switching in and out of several sites to associate with friends.

If you don’t want people to see your recent Justin Bieber binge or guilty listen to “Party Rock Anthem,” switching off the apps is as easy as selecting the pencil to the right and selecting “Remove Spotify.” If you don’t want to get rid of the app entirely, just click “Hide all Recent Music Activity from Timeline.”

Originally published Jan. 17 in The Nevada Sagerbrush, U. Nevada.