A Beginner's Guide to Facebook

A Beginner's Guide to Facebook

So are you on The Facebook yet? It's all the rage with the young people these days, them and their Tweeters, and the MeSpaces, and the YouTubers. The Facebook is one of them, whatchmacallit, social Internetworks.

If you're reading these words, chances are you're on Facebook. Almost a 1 in 10 chance. As of January 2011, there are over 600 million people on Facebook, and some experts believe they will reach 700 million users by June. The world's population is already at 6.8 billion, which means 10 percent of the world will be on Facebook by May.

But you're not on it yet?

If you're not on Facebook yet (it actually was called TheFacebook until 2005), you're missing out on the biggest social network devoted to gossip, chatting, and sharing photos of children and grandchildren in the entire history of the world, followed closely by the Methodist Church Ladies Cookie Ministry.

Facebook is a way to connect with friends from today, friends from high school and college, people in your neighborhood, or even people around the world you share a common interest with, like, say, mothers in their 40s who have an unhealthy love for Edward and Jacob from Twilight.

Facebook lets you connect with anyone you want, and share information about yourself. You can provide status updates about the fun you're having (or not having) with the people you love (or don't love). You can ask and answer questions, provide encouragement and support, and even upload photos of you and your family out having fun.

This last feature replaced the interminable slide shows many people were invited to back in the 70s and 80s, after returning from vacations, making their friends sit through a narrated 3-hour long odyssey of KOA Campgrounds We Visited This Summer, which usually included an awkward number of photos of their children staring at the ground, sulking that they had to go on this lame trip instead of hanging out at the Dairy Queen with their friends. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Facebook started out in February 2004 as a social network strictly for college students; no one was allowed to join if they didn't have an email address from a North American college or university. But after Facebook members graduated from college, they lost their Facebook access, like some old geezer from Logan's Run. However, they were soon reunited with their college friends when Facebook opened up to everyone over the age of 13 in 2006.

Things took a turn for the worse, however, when the Generation Y users of Facebook discovered that — horror of horrors! — their parents were joining the ever-popular network. These younger generations soon discovered that their moms and dads were using Facebook to check up on them, look at the photos of what they had been doing over the weekend, and publicly questioning their taste in friends and the wisdom of making upside down margaritas the day before a big meeting.

In fact, so many moms and dads have joined Facebook — even their moms and dads are joining and disapproving of their children's life choices — that the median age of Facebook users is 38 years old. The fastest growing demographic on the network is women between the ages of 50 and 60.

But you're not on it yet?

Most people who avoid Facebook do it because "I don't want other people to know what I'm doing. I just don't want people to know my business."

There are two ways you can keep people from knowing your business on Facebook. First, you can always block people from seeing your photos and status updates. And second, don't tell people your business on Facebook.

My biggest complaint about Facebook haters is the stuff they complain about, and are adamant that they will never, ever do, are things that people just don't do on Facebook.

You don't have to tell people what you had for breakfast. You don't have to tell people you're taking the dog for a walk. You don't have to tell people that you went to the store and bought some kicky new boots.

Despite what you may have heard, Facebook does not monitor your life and automatically tell all your friends about that shameful thing you did last month.

You know what it is. Don't try to deny it. Everyone knows, and they're all embarrassed for you. That's why no one can look you in the eye when they see you in the store.

Twitter told us all about it.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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