Your complete guide to Facebook Timeline
Facebook announced last week that Timeline—its redesigned profile page—is becoming mandatory for all users. If you don’t switch to Timeline on your own, Facebook will do so for you within “the next few weeks.”
Facebook has been rolling out Timeline slowly since December, after first introducing it at its F8 developer conference in September. The project is one of Facebook’s most ambitious and significant redesigns to date, as it seeks to become your digital scrapbook with the capability to document your life from birth to present day, and revisit old posts more easily.
While not everyone is on board with Timeline, the switch is inevitable. Here’s our complete guide to Facebook Timeline, from making the switch to adjusting your privacy settings, in order to make the transition easier.
Getting Started: Facebook Timeline basics
To switch your profile to Timeline on your own, visit facebook.com/timeline and click the “Get It Now” button.
After you make the switch, Facebook will immediately send you to your new Timeline page. At this point, only you can see your new Timeline—all your Facebook friends will still see your old profile design.
From the day you choose to up update to Timeline (or from the day that Facebook switches you), you’ll have one week to make any changes you want—including deleting old posts, adding life events and more—before your new profile goes live for your friends to see. Or, if you’re ready to debut Timeline before the one-week period, you can click “Publish Now” to push it live.
There are a number of new features and components that you’ll discover once you switch to Timeline. Here are a few of the important ones:
Inline privacy controls: When you update your status, you’ll notice a drop-down menu that shows exactly who you’re sharing a post with: Public, Friends, Only Me or Custom. When you change this setting, it will stay how you set it for future posts until you change it again. You can also designate a status for certain lists.
Navigating Timeline: There are two easy ways you can revisit your past posts. First, you can choose a year by clicking it on the Timeline slider on the right side of your screen, then drill down by month. Or, you can start by clicking the option beside your name and next to the “Update Info,” called “Activity Log.”
Within your Activity Log you can sort your past posts by everything from only items you’ve posted, posts by others, comments, notes, likes, info updates and more. This comes in handy when you’re deciding what you want to keep on your Timeline. (For more on this, see the next section on privacy.)
Adding “Life Events”: Just above your inline privacy controls is a new option—“Life Event.” Just as you can share a status or photo with your friends, you can also fill in your Timeline by highlighting events from your past, such as previous jobs, family and relationships, location moves, travel and more.
After you choose a category to update, you’ll be brought to a form to fill in the details: the location, who you were with, the date, a backstory, photos and a privacy setting for who can see this life event.
Highlight what matters: As part of Timeline’s more visual interface, you’re able to denote which posts deserve more prominence and which are less important, which is reflected in the size of the post.
For example, if you want to highlight a new photo album of a vacation that you just updated, hover over the item and click the star icon. This will turn this item into a “featured post,” which means it’s more prominently displayed.
Similarly, if you want to hide a particular post from your Timeline—but not delete it entirely—hover over the post and click the pencil icon.
How to adjust your privacy settings
When you (or Facebook) migrates your account to the new Timeline, you’ll have one week to make adjustments to your past posts and privacy settings before your Timeline will go live for everyone to see. You can publish your Timeline yourself anytime within the seven-day waiting period.
It’s important to note that Facebook does not change the privacy settings of your old posts; it retains the privacy settings from when you originally posted it. That means that while today you may limit wall posts to just your “Limited Profile” list, posts from years ago could be “Friends only” or even public since the Limited Profile option did not exist at the time.
You have a few options when it comes to pruning old posts:
Make all posts friends-only: It’s possible that your past posts have varied privacy settings based on when they were posted. One way—the easiest of them all—is to use one of the blanket privacy settings: “Limit the Audience for past Posts.” You’ll find this option near the bottom of your Privacy Settings page.
If you decide to use this option, the content on your Timeline that you’ve shared with more than your friends—such as public posts—will automatically change to Friends only. With this setting, though, people who are tagged and their friends will still be able to see the post.
Limit the posts by others on your Timeline: Another way to hide past posts is to limit specific people or lists of people from viewing what others have posted to your wall. To do this, go to your Privacy Settings page, then select “Edit Settings” next to “How You Connect.” Select the drop-down menu next to the last item—“Who can see posts by others on your timeline?” and choose “Custom.”
In the box under “Hide this from,” type the names of the people or the lists that you want to exclude from viewing posts from others on your wall—for example those on your Limited Profile list. Then click Save Changes.
Use “Activity Log” to edit posts manually: On your Timeline, click the “Activity Log” button that appears under your Cover Photo (the large landscape picture). From here, you can use the drop-down menu in the top-right that says “All” to drill down to every type of post or event that has appeared on your wall.
From this view, you can see who currently can see a particular item by clicking on the gear icon next to the post. You can also click the circle icon next to that to either “star” it on Timeline, hide it from Timeline, delete the post entirely or change the date.
Beware of scams
If you’re not a fan of Facebook’s new Timeline, you’re not alone. In a CIO.com poll of more than 800 people, 88 percent responded that they dislike the new profile design. Unfortunately for them—and contrary to Facebook Pages and Groups popping up—there’s no hitting the rewind button to revert to the old profile.
These pages, which you can find easily by searching Facebook for the keyword “Timeline,” have attracted tens of thousands of people. They are generally entitled “Deactivate Facebook Timeline on your Profile” or “Deactivate Your FB Timeline” and are found under app, public figure, community, cause, website and organization categories.
They also have a number of characteristics in common: Most request that you “Like” its page before it reveals how to receive your old profile design, then it instructs you to click a cluster of “Like” buttons and a “Share” button; select a state or country; and choose friends to invite to the application or group.
Security experts suggest that you steer clear of these bogus pages. Generally, Facebook’s official Facebook page and its official security page are two good resources to check if you’re unsure about whether or not a page or meme is legitimate. On these pages, Facebook will post information about new security features, tips and rumors.
Facebook Timeline and the new apps
Along with Facebook’s announcement of Timeline in September, it also introduced a “new class of apps” that go hand-in-hand with Timeline. Last week, Facebook officially launched more than 60 of these new applications.
While Facebook hopes that these new apps will keep you on its site longer, you can expect another change, too: a lot more noise in your Ticker and News Feed,as well as an influx of over-sharing. To avoid this, there are a few things you can do.
Choose your settings before you download: Below the app summary information when you first choose to download an app is an option: “Who can see activity from this app on Facebook.” How you’ve set your default privacy settings—either public, friends or a custom setting—that will determine the automatic setting for all your applications, unless you change it.
If you’re interested in using an application but don’t want your activity broadcast to your friends’ News Feeds and Tickers, choose the “Only Me” option. While your activity will appear on your Timeline, no one else will be able to see it.
Adjust settings after downloading: If you’re not sure what your app preferences are or you want to adjust them, you can review them one by one from within your Privacy Settings page.
From the drop-down menu in the top-right of your screen, select “Privacy Settings” then choose “Edit Settings” next to “Apps and Websites.” On the apps privacy page, click “Edit Settings” next to “Apps you use”—this will show you all the apps that you have downloaded, and the privacy and permissions associated with them.
Here, you can remove the app if you no longer want it connected to your account. You can also preview what permissions the app has and remove certain ones (some are mandatory, which you cannot remove). The last option, “App activity privacy” will tell you who can see posts and activity from this app. If you don’t want Facebook to share your activity, change this option to “Only Me.”
Know how your friends share your activity: Your friends and other people you share information with can also share your activity with apps they use.
To prevent your friends from sharing your app activity with others on Facebook, go to “Privacy Settings,” choose “Edit Settings” next to “Apps and Websites” then “How people bring your info to apps they use.” Here, make sure the box next to “My app activity” is unchecked.
[Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com.]