Switching over to Facebook timeline

May 5, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. ET

Many people are nervous about the new Facebook timeline interface. While professional pages have been switched over, individuals still have it as an option for now. Here’s what you need to know about Facebook timeline, how to switch your page and what you should be aware of.

Facebook timeline

If you’re a technology early adopter, then chances are you’ve already switched over to the new Facebook Timeline, but if you’re like me, sometimes change doesn’t come so easy. While it seems like a major transition, the truth is it's primarily cosmetic, and since all Facebook users will have to switch to the timeline format soon whether they like it or not, we might as well get used to it.

What is Facebook Timeline?

Basically, it’s the new Facebook interface that has taken the old Profile and Wall pages and combined them into one. It is more visual, with a large cover photo at the top and a different layout, and organizes your entire Facebook account into a reverse chronology, or timeline, which is accessible from the righthand side. It’s meant to be more like a virtual scrapbook.

Is Facebook Timeline secure?

As always, posting on Facebook is a social, semi-public endeavor that should be approached with caution. Don’t put personal information like Social Security and credit card numbers on Facebook (duh); it's also probably a good idea to remove your year of birth from your birthday. Facebook Timeline isn’t any less secure, per se, but it does make it easier to access old posts and information, and it presents a good opportunity to go through and clean up your old profile while making sure your security settings are keeping it private.

Make sure you're keeping your social media secure when traveling >>

Can I hide past posts?

Yes! While the old format meant that you would have to click through for a long time to dig up old posts, Timeline makes it so that friends can click on a year and easily see what you posted in, say, 2006. Depending on how long you’ve been on Facebook and how prolific you are, it can be a time-consuming but worthwhile process to comb through those old posts. You can always click in the righthand corner to “hide from Timeline” or, for the ones that may truly haunt you, “delete.”

What security options should I check?

Most importantly, make sure that your Timeline is private. Go to “Privacy Settings,” then “How You Connect” and make sure the settings for "Who can post on your timeline?" and "Who can see posts by others on your timeline?" are set to "Friends" and not “Public.” You can also make sure that your past posts are only visible to friends by going to "Limit the Audience for Past Posts" and clicking "Manage Past Post Visibility," then "Limit Old Posts." Most of all, use common sense – if there’s something that you’d really rather the world never saw, then maybe you shouldn’t post it on Facebook in the first place.

How do I switch to Facebook Timeline?

If you’re ready to make the switch, visit www.facebook.com/about/timeline, where you can watch a video and learn more about the new interface. Click the green “Get Timeline” button at the bottom right-hand side of the page and get started. Once you click, there’s no going back to the old profile, but Facebook gives you seven days to set up and preview your new timeline before it goes live. The main thing you will have to do is choose a cover photo, which is the first item your friends see when they visit your page in Timeline.

How do I choose a cover photo?

The easiest way to select a cover photo is to pick one that you already have in your Facebook photos. The only downside is that Facebook will automatically crop it to fit, which means that it can end up cut off at awkward places. If you want to make sure that your cover photo looks its best, then use a photo editing program to create or crop an image that fits the 851 x 315 pixels. You can use a smaller image, but it will be stretched to fit, which can make it look blurry or grainy.

Learn how to take a great profile picture >>

Tell us

Love it or hate it? Tell us what you think of Facebook Timeline in the comments below!

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