Facebook has more than 750 million active users who, on average, share more than 30 billion pieces of content per month. What does that mean? It means it's a great way to figure out what your middle school ex is doing now or hear about the exploits of your college friends' kids. Because your friends post news and other tidbits they find around the Web, Facebook is also a great filter for the approximately 500 billion gigabytes of information floating around the Internet.
In short, Facebook is fun -- and useful -- because so many people and so much information are there. And in a few short steps, you can be, too. Your first step, of course, will be creating your profile. After that, you can start searching around for your friends. Once you're set up, you can start updating your status regularly, posting on friends' wall, sharing information, and uploading and viewing photos and videos.
If you're brand new to Facebook and it all sounds like a lot to take on, don't fear: It's actually very easy to set up and maintain your very own page. Read on to get started by creating your personalized Facebook profile.
Create a Facebook Profile
The only thing you'll need in addition to a birthday, a name and a gender is an e-mail address. First, go to www.facebook.com and look on the right side of your screen under the heading "sign up." Fill in the information and click the green "sign up" button.
After typing words to show you're human (as directed), Facebook will ask if you'd like to find your friends. It's a good idea to do this now, but don't worry -- you can always come back to this step later. Follow the prompts to allow Facebook to scour your e-mail service for people you've e-mailed who are also on Facebook. Click the boxes next to the ones you'd like to add. (Here's a philosophical point: Now's a good time to decide if you're going to "friend" people from work.)
Next, it's time to create your profile. In general, the more detailed your profile, the easier it'll be for you to find people and for people to find you. It's worth taking your time when entering your high school, college and employer information (as prompted).
Then, again as prompted, include a photo of yourself, either by clicking the button to upload a photo that already exists on your computer, or by automatically taking a shot with your computer's built-in or connected webcam. In general, people tend to use informal pictures that do a good job of showing their face, but your profile picture can be anything under the sun -- as long as it's rated PG-13 or below.
Now it's time to surf through your profile, adding whatever information you think is fun (click the pencil-shaped "edit profile" icon on the upper right). In this and in everything on Facebook, most people enjoy letting their personalities show. As you explore the various slots where you can add profile information -- for example, "philosophy," "activities and interests" and "sports" -- consider taking the time to be honest and precise. Eventually, your Facebook profile will be as unique as you are.
The final step before Facebook allows you to start sharing content is confirming your registration through your e-mail account. Simply go to the e-mail you listed on the very first sign-up page, open the message from Facebook, and click "complete sign-up."
Voila! You're fully operational, or at least ready to start surfing around Facebook's many features. Next, we'll look a little more closely at how to find your friends.
Like any place where people gather, Facebook has its own culture, and this culture guides how you might want to update your status. Luckily, the general rule of this culture is to be yourself. You can update your status with interesting observations, recent happenings in your life, strange non-sequiturs, funny quips, thoughts about life in general, song lyrics or movie lines, information about your kids or pets, or anything else under the sun. And for your first post, consider writing something about being new to Facebook. You might be surprised by how many responses you get!
Now that you've added all your friends, you might want to scroll down through your news feed (click "home" or "news feed") and see what kinds of status updates they've been posting. This is a great way to see what friends and family members are up to. Did a friend get a new job? Is someone trying to put together a movie night with friends? Is your neighbor cooking a fabulous-sounding dinner?
As for the nuts and bolts of updating your status, that part's easy. Click the "home" or "news feed" tab on your Facebook profile. Then, in the top-middle of your page, type your status update into the bar that asks, "What's on your mind?" When you hit "share," your status update will post to your wall, and it'll show up in your friends' news feeds.
Want to post a message on a friend's page or repost an interesting news story? We'll look more closely at that in the next section.
Facebook Posts and Shares
In addition to updating your status to let people know what you're up to, Facebook is a great place to share found content of all sorts. Did you come across an interesting article or a funny quote, or did you love a beautiful picture that your friend posted? You can use Facebook to broadcast or rebroadcast this content to your friends.
Notice that under your friends' status updates there are only the options to "comment" or "like" it, whereas under other content posted to Facebook, including news, photos or video, the option exists to "share" this content. If you're inspired by your friends' news or content, click the "share" button, head it with a quick comment, and click the button to post it to your own wall.
If the content you'd like to share comes from outside Facebook, it's equally easy. The quickest way to share content you found elsewhere is to copy and paste the link into the "What's on your mind?" bar. Notice that once you paste the link, Facebook automatically displays your content as a link, likely with a couple options for pictures to accompany it. Most Facebook users choose to add a short, personalized comment to the content they share.
Finally, many Web sites allow you to share content on Facebook directly from their sites. Especially on news sites, you might notice the Facebook icon (along with other icons, usually including Twitter), either along the top, side or bottom of the page. From here, all you have to do to share this content on Facebook is click the Facebook icon and follow the prompts. A link to this page will appear on your wall, just as if you'd shared the content from within Facebook itself.
What about all those photos and videos you've been dying to show off? More on that next.
Facebook Photos and Videos
One of the most enjoyable parts of Facebook is checking out friends' photos and videos, whether they're from an interesting trip, a family outing or a preschool play. And if a picture's worth a thousand words, then uploading a quick pic is a whole lot easier than typing a thousand words' worth of status updates. There are a couple ways to share pictures and videos, including the following:
Upload a photo or video: If a photo or video already lives on your computer, click the "photo" button above the "What's on your mind?" bar and then follow the prompts to find the photo or video on your drive and upload it to Facebook. As always, consider adding a short comment with the picture or video. You can upload an entire album of photos from your computer, too: Just click the "photos" link on the sidebar on the left of your profile, then click "upload photos" and follow the prompts.
With webcam: Facebook leads you through taking photos or videos with your built-in or connected webcam. Simply click the "photo" button and follow the prompts. That said, using a webcam with Facebook requires a couple additional tools, namely a webcam and the software Flash Player. If this makes no sense to you, consider posting pictures or videos some other way.
From a mobile device: A smartphone connected to Facebook is a powerful combination. Once you've linked your Facebook account with a mobile number (you can do this in "account settings") or installed the Facebook app on your phone, you can take photos and video (if you phone allows), and post it directly from your mobile device to your Facebook profile. To do this, you'll have to follow your phone's specific guidelines, but it's usually fairly easy to get the hang of it.
As you can see, there's a lot to see and share with your friends on Facebook. If you're ready to dig deeper into using Facebook and learn more about the site, check out the links on the next page.
- All Facebook. "Facebook Tutorial: How to Create a Facebook Profile." WebMediaBrands. (July 16, 2011) http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-tutorials/facebook-profile-tutorial
- Facebook. "Introducing the New Profile." (July 16, 2011) http://www.facebook.com/about/profile/
- McIvor, Christine. "How to use Facebook." YouTube. Feb. 6, 2010. (July 16, 2011) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUnmowztKMQ
- Sartain, Julie. "A newbie's guide to Facebook." Computerworld. April 1, 2008. (July 16, 2011) http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9070138/A_newbie_s_guide_to_Facebook