Facebook friends started complaining some months ago about the new timeline. They found it confusing. I have kept looking up what was happening on their walls (that apparently have simply been renames timelines), and apart from being indeed confusing with two columns rather than one, I still cannot see any radical difference. Maybe it will hit me when it comes.
Last week, FB finally informed me that my timeline will be activated on March 11. Since I cannot do much about it - as far as I understand, short of quitting FB which will be like cutting off all essential communication with friends and colleagues – I decided I'd better explore it and see whether it could be useful in some way.
As I have stated repeatedly, I mostly use FB for professional reasons. I like to know what books my colleagues read and what they think of them; what conferences they go to; what journals they contribute to; what topics their students write their theses on. My FB friends are a huge research team. (I hope I give something back too). If they happen to post pictures of their babies or cats, I can always skip them. And I post pictures of my cat occasionally.
I don't use games or apps (with very few exceptions, such as Where I Have Been). I have enough to keep me busy.
So what is the timeline good for? I checked what my friends, who already use it, have filled it in, retrospectively, after they have joined FB. “Graduated...”, “Started work...”, “Married...” - events that FB just has copied from your earlier profile. So I started tentatively to fill in events that weren't there already, and I got hooked. There are so many things that are not reflected in my official cv. Things that I almost forgot and that, by association, emerged as I was mentally turning the pages of my life. I remembered that on the way to a conference in Paris I attended a performance in Lund Cathedral, based on my short story. I remembered that I once interpreted a Baltic summit meeting. I remembered when and how I met some of my FB friends. I realised that I have been to London more often than I remembered. I realised that when I say that I wasn't allowed to travel before I moved to Sweden, it is not true. I travelled extensively within the Soviet Union that was one sixth of the world's area. I remembered, with the help of a photo album, that I once won the first prize for the best costume at the Swedish Children's Books Institute annual party. I had green spikes in my hair, black nails and fake piercing. The theme was “teenage culture”. I remembered all the fantastic people I had met, and all the truly historical events I had witnessed, including the fall of Communism. I realised that events that feel like yesterday actually happened twenty years ago.
I have now played with the timeline for a couple of days, adding travel, unusual tasks, exciting encounters, first article, book, translation, review, conference, driving licence, car, computer, online course. I plough my way through my official cvs, publication lists, archives and photos.
The new timeline is forced on me just as I am approaching my sixtieth. The right time to look back. My timeline looks so much more exciting than my academic cv.