Facebook Timeline apps take oversharing to a new level

When Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg introduced the term "frictionless sharing" last year, it was clear the company was taking off yet another layer of privacy.

(Credit: Facebook)

(CBS) - Facebook recently launched 60 new apps for Timeline, making "frictionless sharing" more invasive. But, is it going too far?

When Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg introduced the term "frictionless sharing" last year, it was clear the company was taking off yet another layer of privacy. Sharing our playlist via the Spotify app seemed intrusive, but acceptable. Sharing music with friends can form a bond for like-minded individuals.

These new apps include cooking, running and reading. Are we taking it too far? There's nothing I loathe more than clicking on an article my friend read from the Washington Post, only to be sent to the app. How is that "frictionless"?

Then there are conspiracy theories that Facebook is setting up its structure to better integrate ads, using techniques of behavioral economics.

Jeff DeChambeau, a senior analyst at IT services and think tank T4G, argues that Timeline is designed to manipulate us into paying attention, using the principles discussed in Daniel Kahneman's book "Thinking, Fast and Slow." The book theorizes that we have two systems of thinking - fast and slow. System 1 is fast and shallow, while System 2 is slow and detailed.

"Try scanning someone's Timeline. It's a very unpleasant experience," DeChambeau said in a blog post. "When information is organized in a list, it's trivially easy to scan it, but with Timeline your eye has to dart around and try to combine the layout into an understanding of what the person's been up to. It induces cognitive strain and brings System 2 online."

In theory, all of this is designed to slow down our eyeballs and pay attention to posts we would otherwise skim past.

"Bluntly, Facebook transformed from a service that makes you happier into a service that makes advertisers happier - often at your expense," said Paul Barter, vice president of T4G.

Obviously, Facebook needs to pay for the resources that keep over 800 million users connected. I just wonder if there's going to be a tipping point. With every new change users react wildly - forming protest groups and threatening to quit.

With the last few changes, I've personally noticed that the protests aren't quite as loud. Then again, I've also noticed activity on my news feed has slowed down and become less engaging.

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