How Facebook Works

Facebook Profiles

The upper section of a member profile contains the profile picture and an application sidebark.
The upper section of a member profile contains the profile picture and an application sidebark.
Image courtesy Facebook

Your Facebook profile is the Web page other members will see if they look you up. It gives people an idea about who you are and what your interests include. Facebook assumes that many of the people with whom you'll want to connect work for the same company, went to the same school or live in the same town as you.

To make it easier to find friends both old and new, Facebook gathers information about you and everyone else to create a dense network of contacts. The upside is that you'll be able to see old classmates or coworkers who have Facebook accounts; the downside is that everyone else in that network will be able to find you. You can choose not to answer questions or to adjust privacy settings so that others can't find you, but that tends to defeat the purpose of a social networking site. ­

Your unmodified profile has:

  • A space where you can upload a profile picture.
  • A friends section, which displays pictures of Facebook members you've befriended.
  • A section that shows the personal information you've decided to share with other members. This can include your birthday, work history, education and interests.
  • A mini-feed section, which informs visitors about what you've been up to. If you change your profile picture or add a friend, the mini-feed will display a message about it.
  • A comments section called the wall, where other members can leave messages for you.

­If you visited another member's unmodified profile, you'd see the same fields and sections, but under his or her profile picture you'd have a few more options, including:

  • Instant message, which opens up a Facebook application IM client
  • Sending the person a message, a function similar to e-mail
  • An option to add the person as a friend, if he or she is not already your friend -- the next time the other member logs into Facebook, he or she will see the friend request and can accept, reject or ignore it.

When you log into your account, you arrive at your personal Facebook homepage. The basic homepage layout includes a news feed that keeps you updated about what your friends and networks are up to. There's also a status update section, which contains notices about messages you've received, invitations to events, notices about applications your friends would like you to try and a place where you can tell people how you're feeling or what you're up to. There's also a link that lets you invite friends to join Facebook.

Business owners, artists, bands and public figures can make special Facebook profiles. Instead of becoming friends with the owners of these accounts, you can become a fan. If you work for a company that doesn't have a presence of Facebook, it's a good idea to discuss a strategy with others before creating an account -- most human resources departments don't care for surprises.

You can customize your Facebook profile using Facebook applications, some of which were developed by members just like yourself. In the next section, we'll learn about the rich world of Facebook applications.