By the time you are reading this, Facebook will have already released their biggest and most revolutionary update yet — the Facebook Timeline. I know this because, according to Timeline, I am already using it. In the future.
Timeline is so good at digitizing the lives of Facebook users that it is capable of displaying their status updates before they are even written. By sliding the Timeline days, weeks or even years into the future, your Facebook friends will be able to watch the story of your life unfold before it ever happens.
Upgrading to Timeline is incredibly easy. In fact, you’ve already done it. Whether you currently have a Facebook account or not, Timeline has predicted your inevitable concession to social networking and already begun documenting everything you do. Not only that, it’s been busy keeping a record everything you’ve done since the moment you were born.
Using Timeline for the first time is a painless, though somewhat disorienting experience. The interface is intuitive enough; scrolling down brings you to information about the user’s past while scrolling up takes you into posts from his or her future. Reading and commenting on status updates that have not yet been written is at first an amusing novelty, but the philosophical implications quickly begin to overshadow the fun associated with laughing at your friends’ imminent breakups.
Weeks after the time of my writing this, several people commented on my Wall praising me for my prescience and deriding me for stripping them of their notion of free will. I noticed that I will join Groups like “23 Strong Against Facebook Timeline,” which will at no point in time ever have more than 23 members. I also will become a fan of Sex and the City 3, which is strange considering I was highly disappointed by the first two.
Timeline introduces many new features, chief of which is the ability to record “Life Events” such as major purchases, accomplishments, serious illnesses or the passing of loved ones. Casually scrolling through a friend’s list of Life Events is as entertaining as it is voyeuristic. Looking into my own future, however, was… less than gratifying. At the very least, it has saved me the trouble of filling out any more internship applications.
For now, I am torn as to whether or not the Timeline represents an improvement to the social networking service. On one hand, it saves me the trouble of ever having to respond “Maybe” to an event invite that I am unsure about, because seeing whether or not I will actually attend is only a few clicks away. On the other hand, I now know that I will never learn another foreign language, as well as the exact date of my death.
Ryan Brenner is a junior studying at Lehigh University. You may know him as the recipient of the 2004 Franklin Township Future Scientist of the Year Award, or as the author of the thing you just read. Follow him on Twitter (@ryanbrenner) if you're feeling adventurous.
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