The New Facebook Timeline and Grieving People

UPDATE: Facebook is delaying the roll-out of their Timeline format, see article related to the delay HERE.

I decided to be an early adopter of Facebook Timeline. 

I have long said that "The world belongs to people who can change."

Facebook Timeline is a big change.

The reason for my early adoption of the program was, in part, just being curious. But the other part had to do with anticipating how it would effect grieving people. Only those who are authorized through the app developers window can see the changes that everyone will be seeing on October 5, 2011. So, if you visit my Facebook page right now, it will not show Timeline to you until October 5th. If you have taken the plunge to get signed in as a developer, you can now see my page with Timeline. (see link for instructions below)

In all the promo regarding Facebook's Timeline, it presents a happy life, with many highlights and joys. The media surrounding it is full of Hallmark-styled moments of happy families and fun parties and lovely photos. Of course, these media pieces are advertisements that try and influence people to feel good about the changes coming...

I deal, however, with a large population of Facebook users who have many, many difficult moments and hard photos - such as of their children sitting by a gravestone... I am a bit protective of them. I want them to get taken care of. I want to warn them if things might not be good for them.

On the current Facebook format, you would have to do pages and pages of tedious digging to get anywhere into your past and - you would likely get carpel tunnel syndrome before you had any large impressions wash over you. But I suspected that this format would be very different.

So, I took the plunge. And it is... YOUR LIFE RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU on your profile page. 

So, if you do not like how your life is going or you had a really bad patch that lasted a good long while, you are not going to "like" this, to use Facebook jargon.

The layout is similar to tumblr - at least the tumblr template that I utilize on my page. It is not linear. It reads more like a newspaper with columns and sections in a patchwork on your page. It is a random (at least to my eye, there must be an algorithm behind the madness) crazy quilt of your posts, friends pictures, photos, maps and so on.

I was able to go back and see my first posts when I joined Facebook right after Brian died in 2008. I was sitting alone in New England and was trying to live out a commitment to staying technologically relevant in social media as a way to try and hang onto the three step-children that I had lost custody of to their birth-mom... and I can see my first status updates.

My third status update:
"I'm asking for a do-over."
Going back and seeing the progression that my life took is a bit of a psychological work out.
 I, personally, do not have posts before Brian's death, I was not on Facebook then. I was living a very different life then - I was far more engaged with work and family. My first posts on Facebook are heartbroken posts, punctuated by jokes so that people could tell that I was still breathing. 
 Back then - I thought that no one wanted to see my grief posting, so I can see that I held it to a minimum - it took me a while before I discarded that position for believing that my avocation was to create culture shift in society for grieving people by speaking freely about my loss and others losses.
Interestingly, Facebook has included a new feature that will be important for new grieving people. It seems to allow you to flag posts - even that you have lost a loved one... 
I recall months of petitioning Facebook to include a widowed status, and now they allow you to mark a post this way...
I want to alert people that are grieving that seeing months and years of sad posts and then seeing your friends months and years of happy posts may seem a bit rough. It reminds me of all those Christmas cards you would get every year where people went on and on and had so many great stories to write about and I only had deaths to discuss (which I opted out of telling them about.) 
 I also had 2 dear friends suddenly die since I was on Facebook. So, in a short 3 year period, there is a lot of sorrow in the posts that show up. 
I might suggest that grieving people take this change in Facebook slowly. Go into that timeline with a lot of support around you. Do not go there when you are feeling really down. Maybe invite a friend who understands your grief to be there with you and support you. If you have a therapist, bring your laptop to a session and begin to unpack it together. Make sure you have support for yourself. That will look different for each person. But take care of yourself in the changes. And stay in touch. Do not lose your network of support by prematurely closing your account. Not on my watch, anyway.
I think the richness of a life is not defined by the sum of fun moments we have had as much as how much and deeply we loved - regardless of the pain and discomfort that came with it. I believe that grieving people are some of the most rich, complex and deep people on the planet. You have a story and it has power.
If you accept this intention - there can be an embracing of your story and a love and compassion for yourself that is fostered by the encounter with your Timeline. 
Be proud of who you are, what you have been through, who you are becoming - the light that you bear in dark places is beautiful, friends.
I am going to be ruminating on this more, and if I have more to add, I will do so as a P.S.. I just wanted to get the word out there, because the change will happen October 5, whether you are ready or not...
Love, Kim


Some other ideas to help grieving people:

-- Sign up early as I did and several have to look things over, you will have until Oct 5th to figure out what you want to do. I used the directions HERE to be an early adopter of Timeline.

-- Widows can be targets for stalkers and creeps, as you may know. Timeline's map feature is currently set for public viewing - I have researched this and so far it appears that there is no way to hide it or delete it. So, if you have concerns about who knows where you are, do not use the map check-in feature. You may want to try deleting your check-ins before the Timeline roll out (I assume with the old FB you can delete them).

-- Facial Recognition technology is ramping up. To opt out of Facebook's facial recognition technology by going to Account > Account Settings > Privacy > Customize Settings > Things Others Share and disabling "Suggest photos of me to friends," you should also upload random pictures of trees and animals and stuffed toys and tag them as yourself.

Along with that - think about any of your surviving children and the amount of information you are posting about them. They will be living into a greater lack of privacy as social media unfolds. So many people post pictures of their adorable children - you are proud of them, but this will be in the digital record forever, so you need to think about what that will mean for them. Use judgement and measure your posts about them...

-- Set your privacy settings high right before the Timeline roll out so that you have time to see what it looks like and then decide what you want to do.

-- This change might present an illuminating opportunity for society to begin to realize how long and arduous a road grief can be. If we can bare our lives being shown for it's raw truths it might help the culture to accept the length of bereavement.

-- Those whose beloved died before they were on Facebook - this gives you an experience similar to an online digital scrapbook where you can take time and go back to select the memories that you want to add and present to your friends. It can be a therapeutic exercise.

I have worked on my page a little bit: 

And, I added a post about Brian's death:

This from Facebook Help

-- Removing and Highlighting a Story

You get to decide which stories appear on your timeline. Hover over a story on your timeline to see your options:

Feature on Timeline: This allows you to highlight the stories you think are important. When you star a story, the story expands to widescreen. Starred stories are also always visible on your timeline.

Edit: This gives you the option to:

    •    Hide from Timeline: This removes stories from your timeline. Note that these stories will still show up in your activity log, which only you can see. They also may appear in your friend’s News Feeds.

    •    Depending on the type of story (ex: status update, checkin, tagged photo), you may also have the option to:

            -- Change the date of a story (ex: for an old photo, you can enter the date the photo was taken so it shows up in the right place on your timeline)
            -- Delete a post

Remember: You can also see the audience of stories you and your friends share from your timeline, and change the audience of things that you share.