On the Racial and Gender Implications of Facebook’s “Timeline”.

Talk about the ways in which race and gender structures social media experiences.


Suzanne Labarre writes at FastCo Design,

Timeline, by contrast, includes an actual timeline, organized in tiles across two columns like a virtual noteboard, that lets you present your autobiography from birth to now. You do it in your own words and with your own pictures, which means you’re free to highlight the milestones (the wedding, say) and bury the embarrassing moments (the bachelorette party). Then you top it off with a mega-huge panoramic photo of yourself or, for the camera-shy among us, a “unique image that represents you best,” to quote the site. The tiles within your timeline can also include apps: One for tracking your music (and letting others listen to it as well through Spotify), and another to track the movies you watched (with Netflix), and another to track the number of miles you ran, and even the precise route you ran (with Nike+). In short, it centralizes and publicizes all of the details in your life that you never fully log.

All of which should sound astonishingly familiar to anyone who has been following Felton’s career. Felton spent years obsessively logging his quotidian doings, from what he ate every day to how many photographs he took, then published the data in sets of beautifully minimal infographics. His Feltron Annual Reports were a smash. Recently, he elaborated on the idea to create Daytum (with Ryan Case, also now at Facebook), an app that allows users to generate their own data-viz diaries. Timeline is the same basic conceit, except the data at hand has become pictures, musical tastes, movies, and whatnot. Watch the introductory video of Timeline above, then watch this old video of Daytum below. Note how the basic UI–the large tiles, the side-by-side columns–is the same.

As I read this I thought, to what extent does Felton, User Interface designer for Facebook who is White, middle class, and presumably heterosexual  have to be concerned with stalking, or violence? How may this information in timeline may be used against marginalized bodies.

Facebook is used for benign stalking, don’t get it twisted. A public archive of a woman’s history means that it can be used for aggressive stalking as well in ways that we may have not anticipated.


Queer folks.

Social Justices organizers.

Why would I allow my autobiographical information to be stored publicly on a website that I do not control?

Shit, this weekend, I learned upon being admitted into the ER that the reason why they asked for my ID and mailing address (and not my insurance card)  is because “health care” identity theft is on the rise. Meaning people steal identities NOT only for credit card info, but to use other peoples health insurance. It is NOT a game.

You get my drift?

I mean. Here is the rub.

1. It is dangerous for women in general, and women of color in particular to have her whereabouts posted, and archived historically.

2. For those of us who do social justice work, anonymity is paramount. Enslaved folks didn’t go yelling in front of massa “yassa bawse, we’s gone try and free ourselves tomorrow. Just wanted you to know bawse.” I wrote THIS BLOG anonymously for 5 years until I got comfortable using my name.

3. Stalking and violence is real for women.

4. Corporations pay for our information, and cookies track our search habits. With the ways in which FB is archiving and displaying our histories, anonymity will be for the elite. Not only will working folks be low income, but they won’t be able to hide or be able to be discrete.

5. In a society organized by and for men, we need to mindful of how technology in general and social media in particular impacts different bodies differently.

On Facebook time line.





What do you think of Facebook’s timeline?

Does “Timeline” make women more vulnerable?


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  1. msdailey says

    I’m annoyed to say the least. I know that changes and updates have to be made, but I believe through it all we should have the options of enabling disabling any new changes going on.

    Put into the perspective in which you mentioned stalking and violence, scary doesn’t even being to explain it.

  2. says

    I have friends and family that basically posts the layout of their homes. Yes, you can probably figure out what time they come home from work, their bus route, etc.

    Does your tweet make you vulnerable?
    I’m sure if some one can put 2 and 2 together from registered IP addresses and all the small little digital footprints that we leave, my paranoia tells me that you are vulnerable.

    Do you really need to post everything on Twitter, FB, etc. just because everybody else is doing it? Eventually I might leave FB because all I really do is check out photos people post . . . when I’m on FB. And if you’re private, people can still get at you.

    And let’s not talk about very personal, and revealing photographs that folks think no one else will see. Oh yeah, it is on Tumblr.

  3. Renina says


    Your comment points to something that is pertinent.

    My post is not what about “I” post about “myself”. It is about fundamental layout of a website, Facebook posting my digital history in an easy to read archive.

    That shit is the devil. We all have things about us that we would like to either conceal OR highlight.