Facebook is testing a new option for how you create status posts: you can hide them from your timeline from the new post box, so they only show up on News Feeds and search.
You could already do this for individual posts from your profile, but putting it front and center iss a big deal. Basically, Facebook is adding a layer of anonymity and ephemerality to a platform that’s normally very public and enduring. The change comes with a long list of pros and cons.
It means that what you post on the social network no longer has to be permanently tied to your timeline. The idea is likely to encourage users to post more random thoughts – I could post some whatever menial brainfart comes to mind and not have to worry about it remaining on the semi-permanent record of social media.
In a sense, it’s the platform’s response to Snapchat. While there isn’t a ticking timer as with Snapchat, the posts would effectively disappear once they’re old enough to no longer show up in people’s News Feed.
It could keep users more engaged on Facebook, as users can be more expressive without having everything they say listed on their profiles. That’s really useful if you don’t want potential employers to see all the silly thoughts you write or simply want to fire off an emotional, impulsive thought that you don’t want to keep on record forever.
But that same lack of accountability could very likely facilitate trolling. Simple example: Racists can write bigoted posts and share them to the world without them remaining permanently visible on their timelines. Though you’ll still be able to look up the posts via search, it makes the process much more inconvenient than simply visiting someone’s timeline and seeing their post history.
Small though it may appear to be, it could be a fundamental change in how posts are created on Facebook, both good and bad. Keep in mind this is only a test at the moment so you might not see it on your account just yet, and it may not even be a permanent feature. We’ve contacted Facebook for more information and will update this post if we hear back.
Update 3:00 PM ET: Facebook responded with the following:
The Timeline on your profile is a great place to see a comprehensive history of your Facebook posts. We’ve heard feedback that sometimes, you may want to share a post with friends and family via News Feed and not have that post be displayed on your Timeline. The ability to hide a post from your Timeline already exists, and today we’re testing a feature that would make it even easier to control where your posts live by giving you the option to publish a post only to News Feed and not to your Timeline.