So you’ve heard of it before, and now you’re starting to really hear about it. Then comes the dreaded, “Everyone else is doing it!” Not wanting to be left out, you sign up, and you’re now staring at a hundred different things, all looking for your attention.
No, you’re not Octomom. You’re a Facebook user.
Facebook has taken the world by storm, probably more so than every other medium at this point. MySpace became the haven to crazy seventeen year-olds, budding artists, and fluorescent pink backgrounds. Twitter was a foreign language to the majority of Americans, much like text messaging (omg! this is gr8, lol!). Instant messaging started to fade when it couldn’t be hooked into mobile phones well. But Facebook persevered more than any other, because of its initial sense of no frills…but more important its ability to look up and find countless people that you hadn’t known or seen for years.
Old roommates, high school friends, former lovers, and random people you knew but didn’t care about. All of these are now a simple search away. But with technology comes the unknown, and with an application like Facebook, there’s still a heck of a lot of unknown for many people.
So I thought I’d take a few moments to toss in some advice for Facebook. Take it for what it is, and let it guide you to whatever degree you think it should. With that said, here are the ten rules I think everyone should follow on Facebook:
- Don’t accept everyone in the world as your friend. In general, people don’t like conflict, and it feels a little wrong to flat-out reject someone as a friend. Can you imagine if the world were full of moments where someone stopped you in Target and asked, “Hey! Will you be my friend and share your info with me?” Awkward. You’d probably throw out whatever diversionary tactic you could think of and run screaming in the other direction. So my advice: don’t let Facebook be any different. And best of all, if you choose to “ignore” a friend request, they never know this. Their request just doesn’t get answered, and they’ll never know whether you ignored it or just don’t use Facebook that much. Problem solved.
- Set your privacy settings to be a little more strict. At the top of each page, there is a “Settings” link, and under that another called “Privacy Settings.” Of particular interest on the next page is the “Profile” link, where I have set every single category to be “Only Friends.” Ironically I ran into the same phrase every time one of my relationships ended, but that’s another story. But in this case, you’re stating directly that people that you don’t accept as a friend can’t see any of your information. By default, a lot more is open to that, including photos and the people you’re friends with. It also helps control access to the crazies (see point #1).
- Encourage others’ content before your own. The best thing about Facebook is the running dialogue with friends and family, so try to comment on their statuses, links, and other activities when you can. This can be serious, humorous, or anything in between. And when things die down a little, then you can throw in your own content to get things going.
- Don’t post information about how many times you’ve had sex, or how many movies you watched this week, or what your deepest darkest desires are. There is such a thing as TMI, and most people would be somewhat mortified to share this kind of thing at a party. Why do it on Facebook? It might haunt you forever, you know, with people finally knowing about your long-closeted love for toe fungus. Think about it.
- Use the Links section with wild abandon. One of the best and most-underused parts of Facebook is the Links capability–that is, people sharing links to various web sites, articles, or other content. The web has become so expansive that more and more content becomes obscured these days, so what better way to enlighten friends by sharing links with them? If there’s a site that you love, or something that you find fascinating, simply copy the link to your clipboard (highlight and Ctrl-C), paste it into the box on the Links page, then Share. Add a note, and now your friends can share the love with you. And not the kind that causes diseases or awkward water cooler moments.
- If you don’t want someone as a friend anymore, toss ’em to the curb! One of the lesser-known things about Facebook is that if you remove someone as a friend, they are never informed. You simply stop showing up in their friends list. So if you need to do a little cleansing, particularly for people that you won’t see in person, just quietly remove them. Another problem solved.
- If you’re into music concerts, there’s an amazing application called iLike which highlights all concerts by your favorite musicians. With most artists doing everything they can to earn a living, almost all of them are hooked into applications like Facebook and MySpace. If you perform a search in Facebook for “iLike”, you’ll find one of the best applications there is, and a terrific way to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to see your favorite artists in person. You can also share your music likes and dislikes with friends if you wish to, as well as see unique artists updates and music videos.
- Keep an eye on what your wild siblings are doing. I have witnessed my brother, through the various capabilities of Facebook, do the following: get romantically serenaded by a man, catch a pie in the face, embody the heart and soul of Queen, harass a little girl for speeding in her backyard vehicle, and pay tribute to the late Steve Irwin through a stirring performance in the darkness of his house. I think you’ll agree that it’s better to know these things are happening…well, more so than not knowing.
- Experience the true oddities of worlds colliding when friends from one part of the world see comments from other friends they haven’t met. There’s nothing more entertaining than seeing people have that “WTF?” moment after reading comments from your other friends, especially inside jokes. As an example, a friend and I have a joke going about neighborhood crime (which there isn’t), so one day after I accidentally left my garage door open, he posted on my wall to say that someone might steal my car before the day was over. The next thing I know, I have worried relatives writing to me, worried that I was having my car stolen. That’s entertainment.
As with everything, Facebook is something that has to be used the right way to avoid having it go too far. There are times when it becomes information overload, and the thing has so many different applications that you can be flooded if you’re not careful. But with a little selectivity, and just the right dose of crazy, it’s one of those things that brings a lot of entertainment. And of course a reunion with just about everyone you ever knew.
Just make sure to post a beautiful picture, preferrably not the one from your high school prom.