O would some power the giftie gie us
to see ourselves as others see us.”
Good old Robert Burns. He put his finger on it: How beneficial it might be to step outside ourselves for a moment and check out how we’re coming across to others. I think his idea was that most of us might become slightly uncomfortable and make a few changes as a result.
I don’t think Facebook’s new Timeline feature is quite what he envisioned, though. Coming soon, the much-discussed Timeline purports to be a chronicle of your entire life, everything from the magnificent to the mundane, going all the way back to … well, 2009 or so, whenever you first posted a blurry iPhone photo of your lunch. From now on, according to Mark Zuckerberg, the complete chronicle of what you’ve been consuming, and where you’ve been consuming it, will now be out there for everyone to see.
People seem to think this is some kind of revolutionary step, but I remain skeptical. The problem is, most of the Facebook folks I care about already tend to self-edit to a draconian degree. I don’t think they’ll be any less circumspect when they know Timeline’s indelible memory is keeping track. I’ve long since given up on seeing any dramatic disclosures. With Timeline, it’ll be the same minor athletic achievements, the delightful meals, the day-to-day cuteness of children and kittens. There will just be more of it, in chronological order, stretching back to the dawn of Facebook — which is really not so long ago. Eventually, maybe, we’ll become convinced that the lives of others aren’t generally more fulfilling than our own. But probably not.
The problem is, Facebook is not a biography. It’s an autobiography. We’re each writing our own. And like good politicians everywhere, we always leave out the good parts.