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Facebook Timeline Tutorial

Learn How to Use Facebook Timeline, A-to-Z

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Facebook Timeline serves as each user's personal dashboard on Facebook, displaying their profile info and visual history of all the actions they've taken on the social network.

Facebook Timeline is designed to help people tell illustrated stories about their lives -- with the "stories" consisting of posts, comments, likes and other content, along with summaries of people's interactions with one another and with software apps.

People have compared it to a digital scrapbook or visual diary of someone's life. Timeline rolled out in 2011 to replace users' old Facebook Profile and Wall pages.

The Timeline page has three primary areas--a horizontal cover photo tripped across the top and two vertical columns down below. The column on the left contains personal info about the user, and the column on the left is a chronological "timeline" of their activities on Facebook.

The Timeline column allows people to go back in time to see what they and their friends were doing in specific months or years. Each user can edit it to delete or "hide" posts they don't want to show up there. In addition to this chronological activity diary, the Timeline page offers other robust, customizable features, but they aren't particularly well understood or widely used.

Here are the key components of Facebook Timeline:

1. Cover Image on Facebook Timeline

Cover photo Facebook timeline
Cover photo on Facebook Timeline
This extra large banner or horizontal image is stripped across the top of your page. It can be a photo or other graphical image. Its purpose is to welcome visitors and make a visual statement about you. Be aware that your Timeline cover image is public by default and can be viewed by everyone. To repeat, the visibility of a cover photo cannot be limited--Facebook requires that it be public, so choose this image with care. Its dimensions are 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall.

2. Profile Photo

Facebook profile photo
Facebook profile photo
This is the photo of you, typically a head shot, inset at the bottom left your Timeline cover. A smaller version also is shown throughout the network beside your status updates, comments and activity notices in the news feeds and tickers of your friends. Be aware that like the cover image, this profile photo is public by default. It works best if the image you upload is at least 200 pixels wide.

3. Thumbnails on Facebook Timeline

Thumbails on Facebook Timeline
Thumbails on Facebook Timeline
These small photos appeared in a horizontal strip beneath your Timeline Cover, to the right of your profile photo, in the first version of Timeline, but that strip of customizable pictures was subsequently deleted. The picture strip was meant to illustrate your Facebook info by category and to let people quickly navigate different categories of content. By default, Timeline showed images for four categories: friends, photos, likes and map. When Facebook redesigned and did away with the horizontal strip of thumbnail, the categories became small boxes or "sections" under the "About" column running down the left side of the main profile/Timeline page. You can change which categories are shown under "About" by editing the About sections, as explained below.

4. Personal/Work/About Me Info

Facebook About Me info
Facebook About Me info
Sections of your bio and personal likes/media tastes appear in the "About" column on the left beneath your profile and cover photos on your Facebook Timeline page. Access the menu for changing it by clicking the "About" tab or the "Update Info" label that appears superimposed on your Cover photo Fill out as much profile detail as you like, including birthday, hometown, contact info and other personal details. But don't forget: Profile info can be customized to determine who can view it. If you don't want everything public (who would?), be sure to take time to restrict viewing for each category in your basic profile. Facebook added some new sections to the "About" page in early 2013, including the ability to showcase favorite movies, books and other media. For more detailed instructions on editing your profile, see our illustrated, step-by-step Edit About Profile Tutorial.

5. Life Events

Life events box Facebook
Life Event menu for adding events
The "Life Event" box appears directly below your profile picture on the Facebook Timeline. It has a dropdown menu inviting you to add personal events to your timeline, along with photos and other media. You can also access the "Life Event" box lower on the page, alongside specific months and years in your Timeline, via a floating menu bar. You can add events that happened years ago--but be advised that Facebook will show the date you posted it, as well as the date the event took place. Key event categories include work and education, family and relationships, home and living, health and wellness, and travel and experience.

6. Timeline Navigation

Timeline Chronology Bar
Timeline Chronology Bar
Timeline navigation can seem tricky at first. There are two vertical timeline bars. The one on the right (shown here) is a slider allowing you to slide up and down in time and see different material from your Facebook life. A vertical line also runs down the middle of the page, dividing it into two columns. The dots along that line represent compressed activities; click them to see more activities. This middle vertical line corresponds to the slider, showing what appears by date as you move the slider up and down.

Stories appear on both sides of the middle line. What Facebook calls "stories" are actions you have taken on the network and material you have posted arranged in reverse chronological order, with the most recent at the top. They include status updates, comments, photo albums, games played and more. By default, all actions previously designated as public will appear on the timeline. But you can selectively edit them by mousing over each event. You can hide, delete or even add new content. New content added is public by default, so be sure to use the audience selector if you want only your friends to see things.

A floating menu bar with icons also appears as you navigate up and down your Timeline, exploring activities. This floating menu is designed to let you add and edit material in-line on the chronology. Hover your mouse over the central blue line and click the plus symbol to make the menu bar appear at any time.

7. Activity Log

Facebook Activity Log
Facebook Activity Log
This keeps track of all your actions on Facebook; think of it as a history of you on Facebook. It contains a list of all the stories on your Timeline; you can edit everything on it. You can delete or add stories, photos and videos. You can also "hide" them, meaning no one can see them except you, and you will still be able to reactivate them and make them visible later. This "Activity Log" page is your master control dashboard for all the content in your Facebook Timeline. It has a tiny menu at the top with a dropdown menu showing each year since you've joined Facebook. Click to change the year and see what's on your Timeline for that year.

8. Map

Map for Facebook Timeline
Map for Facebook Timeline
Timeline has a detailed map that can show you where you were when you posted stuff to Facebook or where your actions occurred, if you enabled places or locations for Facebook. The Timeline map has a menu inviting you to add events and place them on the map. The idea is to let people scroll through your life history on a map, but the privacy implications are significant and have kept a lot of people from using this feature.

9. View As Public/Others

Click the gear icon to access the "View As" menu
The "View As" button allows you to see how your Timeline looks to other people. You can see how the public will view your Timeline (remember, your profile and cover photos are both public), which can help you see if you inadvertently have left any material "public." You can also select a particular individual or list of friends and see exactly how they can view your Facebook Timeline. It's a good way to double-check that your audience selector tool worked the way you wanted it to.

10. Friends

Facebook Friends on Timeline
The "Friends" button allows you to access your list of Facebook friends from your Timeline. The Friends menu also lets you manage who you're connected with, how much you see from each of them in your news feed and ticker, and how much of what you post you want to share with each friend.

This Friends link is a good place to visit every now and then to manage your list of friends. Facebook provides you with powerful tools to hide friends on Facebook(which means hiding what they write from your news feed) and for creating Facebook friends lists to make it easy to send posts to just certain friends.

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