Facebook's Timeline Has Got Me Thinking

I have tried to like ‘em, but the new Facebook “timeline” profiles make me uncomfortable. It’s not just their aesthetics - the magazine-like layout, the lack of focus, or the strong whiff of narcissism - it’s the way they encourage me to treat the “past” as something that actually exists. It does’t.

The past does not exist; it’s a product of your memory.

Instead, stare straight down your nose at the present; it’s where life happens. Imagine the clean slate you’d have if you forgot your past; you might wake up speaking with a thick Irish accent or stop laughing at your bosses jokes.

To me, the timeline feels like an idea conceived by a 27-year-old. Here’s my summary of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s timeline:

  1. Born
  2. Enrolled in elite boarding school
  3. Accepted into Harvard
  4. Dropped out of Harvard because his business looked like it was gonna change the world and make him billions
  5. String of successful product launches
  6. Started to learn Chinese
  7. Time’s Man of the Year
  8. Met President of U.S.A.
  9. Preparing for Facebook’s I.P.O. ($100 billion valuation)

Whew! If that were my timeline I’d want to share it with you too. Ni hau li hai, Zuckerberg xian sheng!

I will be at least 43 years old by the time you read this; most of my life happened before Facebook. Here’s my timeline, analog format.

shopping bag of photos and journals

That’s “me” from age 18 to 28: photos, handwritten journals, concert tickets, and artifacts from places I’ve visited and things I’ve done that I wouldn’t dare do again. While my adult life has been fun, suprising, and adventuresome, I can’t see the value in spending too much time mulling over the contents of that paper shopping bag. More than once I’ve considered throwing the whole lot out; I doubt I’d ever miss it.