Pros and cons of Facebook

Screenshot of Facebook Timeline Intro page.

How can Facebook get any more personal? Facebook already utilizes targeted advertising, so the site seems to know everything about you. It suggests Pages you might “like,” and surprisingly, most of the time, yes, those pages are indeed the brands I like. It even tags your photos automatically and accurately when you upload a new album.

If you thought Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t revamp this social networking site any more, you were wrong. Last week the new Facebook Timeline went live worldwide.

Instead of your current profile “wall,” the timeline acts as a virtual scrapbook. Your photos, status updates, and even wall posts from friends come up in chronological order. You can then click on a certain year or a month, for example November 2006, and revisit the time when you first created your Facebook.

Timeline also pinpoints milestones in your life. Graduation, birthday, anniversary… You can add items to your past. No, you cannot fix your past. You can, however, add photos of your child’s first birthday or your 12th birthday. So you can remember better.

At least within my circle of Facebook friends, many people have embraced this change happily. In the past, every time Zuckerberg tried something different, people cried, threw a tantrum, and resisted. Some vowed to never use Facebook again, but two hours later, they came back.

This time, everyone seems to like the change, which begs a question: what’s so special about the Timeline?

One of my favorite features of the Timeline thus far is what we see at the top, the cover photo. Similar to an album cover but different from your profile picture, the spot — I believe — serves as an overall first impression.

Of course, for now, my indecisive mind hasn’t settled on one cover photo, yet. If you look at the profiles of your friends or public figures, you’ll discover, rather than using pictures of themselves, they’ve placed photos that represent their personality and interests.

Earlier this week, Mashable wrote about a study that found that most people pay more attention to your profile picture than anything else, but I assume this study will soon change. By the way, the profile picture still exists, just a little smaller next to the cover photo.

The downside in my opinion is how easily anyone can access all of your contents. Obviously we all knew whatever ends up on the web lives there forever. Timeline organizes status updates, photos and comments in one place, so people can find them incredibly easily.

This means, beware: hide any embarrassing status updates from when you were a teen. Hide embarrassing photos. Do you really want your co-workers to discover your partying-until-5 am photos?

Luckily, Zuckerberg thoughtfully gave us a 7-day grace period. If you activate the Timeline now, you get a week to review everything on your profile and hide or add anything before the profile goes public.

On the flip side, here’s a friendly warning: this also may be a tear-jerker since you’ll discover old pictures that will bring back some fond memories.

All in all, I like my Timeline so far. I did review absolutely everything on there, and it truly is a unique way to illustrate your life.

You can visit the introduction page and activate the Timeline now, or you could wait until Zuckerberg forces it in your face.

But not all positives

In the midst of these updates, recently I also heard something shocking — at least for me — about Facebook.

During a conversation with a friend, the topic of Facebook came up. She told me that some of her friends don’t let their significant others get Facebook accounts because they are afraid the significant others would reconnect with crushes and ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends.

My reaction? First, the significant others simply obey that ultimatum? No ifs and buts? Second, seriously? People actually worry about that?

When I got home later that evening, I Google searched, “Facebook divorce,” and there they were, articles about how one in five divorces in the United States results because of Facebook.

In one Guardian article, Dr. Steven Kimmons, a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor Loyola University Medical Center, said, “We’re coming across it more and more. One spouse connects online with someone they knew from school. The person is emotionally available and they start communicating through Facebook.”

The Bay Area NBC also offers similar statistics. Twenty percent of all marriage disputes occur because of Facebook, and about 80 percent of those in the process of divorce use Facebook to communicate with their lovers.

“There are times when my paralegal and I sit in this office and laugh because people are stupid,” attorney Carin Constantine said in the NBC story. “They put things out there on the Internet that can last forever.”

Social media played a crucial role in taking down notorious dictators, but could it possibly be destroying personal relationships as well?

Apparently this phenomenon doesn’t stop in the U.S. The Telegraph in the United Kingdom has a similar article on Facebook and divorces, citing various lawyers who say their clients want separation because they claim their significant others engaged in inappropriate sexual chats with others on Facebook.

This is the first time I’ve heard how big of a role Facebook plays in divorces, and I’m not sure exactly what to think of it.

Of course I’d be horrified if I found my boyfriend writing love notes to a random chick on Facebook. But do people really think they can get away with cyber affairs?

The Internet saves everything. Google uncovers everything.

Some people think couples should share Facebook passwords, with which I strongly disagree. After all, couples don’t share cell phones or iPods.

In fact, I don’t know if there’s any other good solution to this problem besides being able to completely trust each other. What do you think? How do you use Facebook? Do you trust others with their usage of social media?

Yoojin Cho is web coordinator at The Martha’s Vineyard Times. Follow her and The Times on Twitter, @theMVTimes and @Yooj812, and “Like” us on Facebook.