If Facebook Is Forever

86809015In the midst of our daily interactions on Twitter, Facebook (etc.), we act as content creators and curators – posting witticisms, complaints, inspirational quotes, funny pics, personal reminiscences and photos, etc.  We do this as a matter of course; it is increasingly a part of how-we-live.

We don’t think much about our digital footprints … except on those occasions when our conservative relatives warn us about being “too out there” or forward along scary articles about online privacy invasions and cyberbullying (all of which we breezily ignore).

Friends of ours post pics of their young kids on Facebook, often at the rate of 3X a day. I’ll admit, sometimes I think “enough is enough,” but you know what? – I look at each one and always smile. They’re darned cute.

It occurred to me that these kids will have a rich record of their early lives: assuming Facebook survives into the next few decades, they’ll be able to literally scroll down a Timeline of their earliest days.  They’ll see thousands of examples of their parents when they were young and vibrant and cool and loving.  It will be a nice thing for them to share with their own spouses and children, someday: it’ll be the photo album that scrolls rather than collects dust on an old bookshelf.  Best of all, those photos will be surrounded by contextual, historical elements that will paint our friends’ lives with richer hues: subsequent generations will understand their political views, laugh at their jokes years hence, ponder LOLcats’ philosophical underpinnings, etc.

A lot of people didn’t care for the Timeline layout when it first debuted on Facebook. But look at it again in this light.  Think about the thick rope of digital memory that you may be crafting for your own kids and grandkids.  Kinda cool.


Posted on: June 22, 2012 at 10:45 am By Todd Defren
13 Responses to “If Facebook Is Forever”


  • When a friend of mine announced last week that private inbox messages she had sent and received between 2007 and 2009 were appearing on her Facebook timeline for all to see, my first reaction was to panic. Lots.

    When I got home later that day and checked my own Facebook timeline I did notice messages I had sent years ago that I was fairly certain I would never have shown off publicly. But Facebook has claimed since the rumour started last week that the messages causing a stir were public to begin with. Maclean’s and the privacy regulator in France (where the panic first arose) – among other credible agencies – investigated and maintain that this is true. But how can we be sure?

    While our beloved Facebook secrets may or may not have been exposed for the world to see, this privacy settings scare should serve as a wake up call: Computer code is sensitive. Glitches happen. Facebook and privacy are like apples and oranges.

    Now, I’m a bit of a social media junkie myself. I use both Facebook and Twitter daily to find story ideas, to check in with friends and family far away and to follow the news. This incident is certainly not going to stop me from using social media but I do think we need a reminder like this every once in a while to slow down and tone down the posts.

  • I guess this is what facebook timeline is really all about. Keeping a more systematic account of the milestones in our lives. It’s not only about now, but for posterity.

  • London PR says:

    How we age and grow online always starts interesting discussions. I think the commenters are right in that people need to consider thinking more long-term when they post current content.

  • Layla says:

    Nice post, I believe it’s definitely becoming more of an essential thing to have everyone be on Timeline. The format looks like a Consultant’s page. Anyone wanting to have their brand or presence increased, should look into getting an entry on Wikipedia. Wiki-PR.com looks like a good place to start. They make great SEO pages.

  • Frank Strong says:

    Awesome post. Not only will this affect how future generations view us, but it will also impact future generations. Kids today must have the most documented lives ever — between iPhone videos and digital snapshots, not to mention Instagram, Flickr, Pintrest, let alone Facebook — there’s more photos of their early years than ever. All I’ve seen of my own are a few grainy color photos.

  • Ryan says:

    Hi Todd, – just read the string of posts on facebook. My wife is a US prosecutor who specializes in child exploitation. Be careful when you post pictures of your children on the net. Esp. on Facebook/myspace/twitter etc. Child predators are gaining access to them and using them (according to the USDOJ) on private access-only child porn sites. Christina C, is right to be paranoid. We don’t post any pix of our kids at all.

  • Christina C. says:

    I was posting pics of my daughters early baby/toddler-hood. Racing through Eriksons stages and skipping Maslow steps… She is smart, beautiful, happy, strong, healthy, talented, intuitive, and fills those around her with supreme love…she is someone to be very proud of as a parent. But if i posted every time i took a photo or thought how amazing she was, my non-parent friends would get a little irritated. Parent friends might get jealous of her ability to sing, dance, ride a tricycle, add and multiply, and carry on fluent, meaningful conversations…
    Also, I wonder about an invasion of her privacy, or identification of all sorts. Some uses are protective, but her image should remain on my computer account. Further postings are seen by “me only”. So her and i can have a record of her early years, but she is in control of her own “image” when she becomes school-aged and asks for her own fb page…LOL

  • Very forward-looking indeed! In the years to come, little kids or even babies can look back at their photos which their parents have shared enthusiastically on Facebook. It’s something that doesn’t get burned, go yellowish with age, or just get lost stuck somewhere in between the pages of a photo album. I think Facebook will be able to chronicle their lives more systematically.

  • Bob Reed says:

    With the recent prognostication about Facebook’s long-term viability, leave it to some hotshot programmer to develop a way for users to off-lead their digital life album onto or into another medium. Can’t see that one not happening.

  • Megan bauer says:

    I never thought about Facebook being used in this manner. It is actually a good forward-looking idea. However, I also see issues with it. Firstly, I think a lot of people are embarrassed about their childhood photos. You know the story: A son brings his girlfriend home for the first time and the mom pulls out the photo album. The son is immediately struck with embarrassment. A lot of people don’t like their peers seeing their childhood photos. For that reason I don’t think a lot of people would be drawn to having their childhood photos on their profiles. The other thing is that if their parents delete their accounts, the photos will be lost.

    While I do think the above, I think your post brings up a lot of good points. I think the idea of having a digital photo album that people can share with family is a great concept. Being able to go back and show your children and spouse old photos is great! (And not having to carry around the heavy albums).

    I appreciate this post because I never thought about using Facebook this way.

  • I hate it when you’re so blastedly right, Todd…and when I realize how short-sighted I sometimes can be. I have been cursing the timeline from Day 1…now I see (and hopefully the genii at Facebook were thinking as you are suggesting) how it can serve as a meaningful digital history.

    Thanks for clearing the clouds!

  • John C. says:

    Totally agree, Todd. I think the life-as-photo-album aspect of social media (specifically Facebook) is incredibly underrated by consumers right now, while the sites themselves actually understand the concept pretty well.

    Users see Facebook as what it is right now, instead of its function for them down the road. The same can be said about Foursquare’s recent improvements, too. Not just a check-in and badges app anymore, it’s an effective recommendations engine and travel log. With the new map features, you can literally sort through anywhere you’ve ever been — with sortable aspects for the type of venue, city, date and who you were there with. It’s a wonder, really, but a sign that more folks need to look at social media on a big-picture personal level, instead of just what’s at the top of the news feed today.

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