Facebook faces growing Timeline user backlash


Facebook’s heralded new Timeline redesign hasn’t exactly been welcomed by many of its 800 million users. But what will its impact be on Facebook’s popularity and is Facebook now too big to care?


Going by the reaction to my reaction to Facebook’s new Timeline format, there’s little love for the change that will become mandatory for all Facebook users from February 4.

While the new redesign allows users to easily find content posted months and years ago, it looks cluttered and lacks the clarity of the single column look that is being phased out. But what has really annoyed many users is being presented with a fait accompli. Facebook is telling its 800 million users to like it or lump it.

When I posted my status as “I didn’t want Timeline, it is horrible” (if you haven’t already guessed, this isn’t exactly an objective post), 13 friends liked the comment and seven left comments deploring the change. There were only two dissenters. Here’s a flavour of the comments.

Noooooooooooooooooo. Facebook is forcing me to have Timeline. It goes live on Feb 4. This is a sad day. Timeline sucks.

I haven’t been on Facebook for a while and I’ve found it’s changed a lot. I like Timeline, it makes sense and it’s easy to trace things back.

Interestingly, when Time magazine technology writer Keith Wagstaff wrote about the beta version of Facebook in November, he noted:

A Facebook spokesperson assured me that it will be opt-in, meaning you won’t just wake up one day and find your profile transformed.

That’s clearly not the case today. While Wagstaff reviewed Timeline favourably, he did warn:

Post-Timeline, profiles will become all-you-can-view buffets for casual voyeurs. Load someone’s Timeline and you’ll see months of status updates, photos and more displayed chronologically. Expand the collapsed years below and you’ll be able to trace someone’s history on Facebook all the way down to his or her birth.

His advice is to:

Get used to clicking “Hide from Timeline.” You access it through the “Edit or Remove” pencil icon that pops up whenever you hover your mouse over the top right corner of any post.

This TechCrunch article is a comprehensive guide with screen grabs on how to administer your Timeline profile to protect your privacy on posts that were lost in the mazy deep of your relatively recent social past (recent because it is easy to forget that Facebook has only been going since 2004)  but now easily within reach of the surface.

This PC World article is also informative. It makes the observation that deleting and hiding posts that may now prove embarrassing or too personal will be a time consuming job. Remember that you may also need to consider all the comments that you have posted on other people’s profiles. These cannot be hidden but they can be deleted.

There is also a go nuclear solution.

If you have a ton of posts from past years that you don’t want people to see, you may want to just consider getting rid of your Facebook account and starting from scratch.

Timeline has been described as a virtual This Is Your Life. The trouble is not everyone wants it. This very recent Mashable poll shows that 79 percent of 1500 respondents say they wish it were optional.

The backlash is clearly evident on the web. I don’t like Timeline and it’s encouraging to see that there are many others who feel the same way. Facebook’s unlovable Timeline has arrived and it isn’t optional. While I might not nuke my Facebook profile, I’m already using it far less often than I used to. But let’s start a conversation. What do you think of Timeline?

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...


  1. Ross McDougall Reply

    I don’t really care to be honest. I barely look at my own page and use FB for status, comments, recent activity area and direct messages. Who looks at their own page long enough, or other peoples pages, to care?

  2. Designer Direction Reply

    I despise Timeline & I think what I despise ‘more’ is the fact that Facebook are forcing it upon users with little or no consent nor any communication to advise what is happening. So much for the official Facebook Twitter bio “Giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” yet NOT giving people the right to choose and failing to share ‘their’ intentions with users.

    The Timeline programming is shoddy too. Over the past 2 days I have spent at LEAST an hour trying to hide and delete posts only to find they have reappeared. I have simply given up.
    I really think Facebook have failed with this one. #failfailfailfailfail

  3. Charlotteglennie Reply

    I really don’t like it. I never joined Facebook for it to keep tabs on every development in my life and then to share the information with everyone I know. Call me old school but I’d rather have a family photo album and a journal!

  4. Chris Chang Reply

    I’m with you here, Charles. I really cannot stand the new layout. I started using Facebook in 2007 – back in the old days! The simplicity of it then was fantastic. Every time there’s a change I usually have a moan, but Timeline seems so out of sync with what they’ve had before. I don’t like how everything is just plastered all over the page.

    Unfortunately for users, FB is king and they’ve got enough people signed up to not give a toss!

  5. Andrea Reply

    Maybe we’ll get used to it. I agree the two column format is not as easy to process as one column, but regarding being able to go back and see people’s early posts, you could already do that if you had enough patience. If you post something on facebook you surely are ok with that being available to your friends permanently?

  6. Jack Yan Reply

    Charles, my experience is that those who oppose change on Facebook (or Google, or any popular website) will always be more vocal. Even the Facebook before Timeline was met with huge anti-new-Facebook groups, outnumbering the pro-change groups by multiples. Facebook’s own poll showed a slight advantage to the pro-Timeline camp, though the advantage was probably not as great as the company would have liked.

  7. Charles Reply

    Thanks everyone. These are all interesting points. The Timeline goes live today and tomorrow so it will be interesting to monitor reaction. I notice there’s been quite a few tweets aggregated under the #timeline and #fbtimeline hastags. Naturally, there are also plenty of comments in Spanish and other languages.

  8. Sue-sue1967 Reply

    if it aint broke, dont fix it!!!!!! Why cant we have a choice? I think Timeline is a GIANT step backwards for FaceBook :o(

  9. Wishiknew5 Reply

    I opted to go with Timeline. I like the look & from someone who is not a friend int list but on a friend’s list, Boone who is not on my friends list can see anything in the way of pics, posts & so forth. As for people saying they don’t want others seeing their history or anything they posted on FB……if your friends have the patience they can go back in the old format. I don’t understand all the fuss. It’s change people….don’t like it then find another social network. Really!

  10. Srw787 Reply

    It stinks! I’m not using facebook anymore the way I used or as much as I used to.  For instance, I don’t post music videos and pictures that much anymore, since timeline uses an algorithm which decides which posts shall remain visible and which shall not.  In other words, I as the user can not decide that…. that sucks!

    1. Srw787 Reply

       Also, the two columns do nothing more than to add confusion for the mind.  It very quickly becomes tiresome to view a page. They eye doesn’t know what to do with all the information… where to start and where to go.

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