Some people panicked recently when it was reported that private email-like messages on Facebook from before 2010 had become public when people switched over to the Timeline format. It turns out that Facebook, as well as several media outlets, investigated and found that in every single instance the messages reported as private were cross-checked and discovered to be legitimate wall posts that had never been private to begin with. Which is definitely a relief.
To quote a TechCrunch reporter: "It can be hard to remember the way Facebook worked or the way we used it back in the day. Without comments, people would have conversations by exchanging wall posts, and any one taken out of context might seem like a private message. We also might not have been as careful with what we posted to walls back then before everyone’s co-workers, boss, and grandma had a Facebook account."
That made sense to me. So I looked back at my Timeline from before 2010 to see what sort of things I was posting back then. Yes, I know, I was supposed to do that when I switched to Timeline and delete embarrassing posts, but I was pretty sure I didn't have any drunken party photos on there and I didn't get a Facebook early enough to have embarrassing geeky middle school photos on there so I figured it was all good. And really, I think Mark Zuckerberg vastly overestimates our stalkerish tendencies on this one. Does anyone actually use the Timeline feature to go back and browse through what their friends were doing on Facebook three years ago? If you do, perhaps you should take up a hobby like golf instead.
I discovered there were many phases I went through on Facebook. There was the emoticon period, where every post I wrote ended in :) After that came the ellipse period, where each status trailed off like this ... despite being the end of whatever I meant to say. And, of course, the time of the passive aggressive posting of song lyrics.
Some things on my Timeline brought back memories. Statuses like "Jade is glad Taylor Hall didn't burn down last night" and photos from New York, for example. Some posts didn't bring back memories, like one from a guy I don't remember ever doing anything just the two of us telling me that he had fun the night before and he was glad he went with me. Whatever that night was, I don't remember it at all (maybe I should be more concerned about drunken party photos). I also had a lot of thoughts like, "Hey, I really liked that shirt. I wonder what ever happened to it."
If a potential employer were to look at my past posts they would see a very balanced person-- I have used both "I love everyone" and "I hate everyone" as status updates in the past. I have also posted both liberal and conservative newspaper columns to my wall, complained about college while also saying it was wonderful and written a fairly even mix of cheerful and angsty messages. See? Balanced. Or bi-polar.
It was interesting that I didn't want to be one of those people who wrote about all of their personal problems on Facebook, but you could still tell when I was going through something really bad, because eventually I couldn't contain my angst and so I would write angrily about other things instead. "Will everyone please stop using that stupid Who Has Seen Your Profile app?" became code for "My life is falling apart and I don't know what to do." Of course, some of my angry/whiny posts were just that. I really want to go back and tell my former self, "Aww, you don't get a spring break to go with your Christmas break and Thanksgiving break and summer break? You poor baby. College must be so hard compared to the real world."
I also found a lot of gems like this one:
I apologize that you (were/have been/will be) offended by the (content/word choice/layout) of the (article/viewpoint/photo) that appeared in the Daily Universe. I received your email that (I/the staff/the reporters) are (apostates/idiots/socialists) and are lacking in (integrity/common sense/a testimony). Thank you for your concern.
the opinion editor"
Which reminded me that as much as I loved my jobs at The Daily Universe, I am also very glad to not be practicing journalism in Utah anymore. Although it was kind of fun looking back through and getting my memory refreshed on exactly which names I was called while working there. Unprofessional, condescending, smarmy ... ah, the memories. I should really keep a list, so when I get a new piece of hate mail I can be like "Oooh, cowardly, I haven't gotten that one before."
Seriously, everyone should go back and browse through their old Facebook posts ... it's not like anyone else will. And you might be surprised at what you find out. Like the fact that you had Fruit Loops for breakfast on August 29, 2008 and they were delicious.