Yesterday, Facebook rolled out its new Timeline feature to the masses. This ultra-illustrative, chronological listing of posts, photos, shared links, check-ins, and more is a radically different arrangement than the Facebook profile you’ve been used to.
And now that your life can be exposed for everyone to see — and scrutinize — you may be interested in curating the new interface. Once you’ve activated Facebook Timeline (go here to do so), you’ve got seven days to tweak it to make sure it’s just how you like before it goes live for everyone to see.
Below are five quick tips on how to personalize, privatize, and generally get the most out of Facebook’s newest feature. It doesn’t take long to master the new interface, and it’s an important exercise for anyone interested in, well, reputation management.
1. Privacy 101: How to Hide Things
You probably already know that Facebook has controversial positions on privacy. So you may now find that some things included on your timeline are best kept from curious eyes. This could be anything from an embarrassing status message you posted in simpler social media times, to a rant your ex left on your wall a few months ago.
To hide a Timeline element, click the pencil icon at the top of the offending post, then choose “Hide from Timeline.” Easy.
And please note: Any privacy settings you’ve already set still apply to the Timeline interface. So the photos of you getting wild at last weekend’s kegger are still safe from Mom.
If you prefer to keep your profile public, but don’t want everyone to see what you posted back in high school, for example, you can also tweak your Timeline settings more generally. Click the arrow next to your Home button at the top of the screen to access your Privacy Settings. Scroll down to “Limit the Audience for Past Posts,” then choose “Manage Past Post Visibility.” Now click “Limit Old Posts” — all of your past posts will only be visible to your friends.
2. Tell Your Life Story: How to Add Past Events
Privacy, schmivacy! Perhaps, you want the whole world to know the day you were born, the first time you rode a bike, and that debate club award you got in high school. These events aren’t listed on your Timeline, but they can be.
To add a status update, photo, place check-in, or life event to your Timeline, simply hover the mouse over the line in the center of the page until it turns into a plus sign, and reveals the option to add one of those four types of posts.
Now, Facebook can accurately reflect your entire life — and not just the events that occurred after you first signed on.
3. Add Some Individuality: How to Customize Your Timeline
There are a number of ways you can personalize your Timeline so it highlights the posts, pictures and events you cherish most.
First, you can add a cover to your Timeline. Toward the top of your profile, above the buttons where it says “Update Info,” you should see “Add a Cover.” Once you click that, you can select an image from your photos, or opt to upload a new image. Once it loads, you can adjust the positioning of your cover image.
If you set a cover photo and then decide it’s not as great as you first thought, just hover your mouse over the image, and a “Change Cover” option menu will pop up, letting you reposition the image or select a new one.
For photo albums you’ve created, you can change the primary photo that displays (you could do this before, but now the process is different). Simply click the pencil icon in the upper corner of the album post, and select “Change Primary Photo.”
You can also choose to highlight a post — expanding it from a small, half-page-size post to a wide-screen version — by selecting the star icon in the post’s upper-right corner. Conversely, you can click the star on a maximized featured post to make it normal again.
4. Appearances Matter: How to Check Out Your Timeline from Different Angles
If you decide to make a number of posts and photos private or hidden from your Timeline, you can still get the full, complete view of your Facebook action history.
On your Timeline, click “Activity Log.” There you’ll find posts and information you need to review before it publishes to your profile, as well as a complete look at your interactions on Facebook. This is log completely private to you.
You can choose to filter what you see by clicking the “All” dropdown menu at the top. You can choose to see only your posts, posts by others, posts from specific Facebook apps (“Hmm, let’s look at my past Farmville accomplishments”), photos and more.
Like before, you can also check how others view your profile. Next to “Activity Log” is a cog icon. Click that, and you can choose “View As…” and either enter a friend’s name or click the “public” link to see how your profile looks to strangers.
5. Information Overload: How to Organize Friends and Filter Updates
Now that your Timeline is all straightened out, you might as well do some house cleaning on what shows up in your Newsfeed.
When you add a friend or follow someone’s public updates, Facebook automatically sets the level of posts you see to “Most Updates.” You can change this by going to that profile, and clicking the “Subscribed” button. You can change it to “Only Important” updates or “All updates,” and you can also filter what types of posts you’re interested in seeing: things like life events, status updates, or photos.
And if you haven’t done so already, you can organize friends into lists, a la the Google+ Circles feature. Facebook Lists rolled out in September.
Just go to the left-hand side of your Newsfeed page, click “More,” and toward the bottom you’ll see “Lists.” You can add friends individually to lists like Close Friends, Family, or Co-workers. You can click “More” next to Lists to add other lists of your choosing — “Acquaintances,” “Poker Club Members,” you get the picture.
The average Facebook user has 130 friends, but I’d venture to say that most of you reading this have far more than that, so this will help streamline your Facebooking experience.
One last thing: If you’re one of those people who’s still into “poking” your friends, you can still do that. Go to your friend’s profile, and the Poke option is listed under a gear cog dropdown menu next to “Message.”