What is Facebook?

Facebook is a social networking website.  It's a place for folks to gather and chat with each other, play games, and stay informed on news and other stories.  Facebook is a competitor of MySpace (one of the first social networking sites created).

Signing up for an account is fast, easy and free.  Anybody can join, although it's generally recommended that kids under 13 don't.  But having said that, there are plenty of kids under 13 that are on Facebook.  If you'd like to sign up for a Facebook account go to www.Facebook.com.

Once you have an account setup, the next step is to find family and friends and add them to your "friends list".  This step is necessary if you want to communicate or see what your friends are up to on Facebook.  The idea behind this step is to offer some basic privacy.  This way only people you list as "friends" can see you stuff on Facebook.

To find friends on Facebook, type their name in the search box.  Finding friends on Facebook can be a bit tricky because often times there's several people with the same name.  So figuring out which person is the one you really want takes some extra steps sometimes.  It's helpful if that person uploaded a photo of themselves (called a "profile photo").  This is the first step to identifying people on Facebook.  If there isn't a photo, or there's still some doubt to the person identity, then you can click the "View Friends" link next to the person your interested in.  The advantage of this is to see if you know the same people they do, and if you do, chances are this is the person you're looking for.

Adding friends on Facebook is a two-step process. First you have to "add them as your friend" (which in turn sends a message to that person that you want to be friends) ... and they then have to "accept you" as their friend.   If they don't accept you (or chose to ignore your request), you won't be ablee to see their Facebook stuff (posts, photos, etc.).

Once you've added friends to facebook (and they've accepted you as their friend), you can view their "friends list" - which can help you find more friends.  Some of your friends may suggest more friends for you which you'll see on your home page of Facebook. It doesn't take long to add a bunch of friends on Facebook.

The next step is the social networking part.  Anytime your friends write or post something on their wall (i.e., their home page), you will see it.  This works in reverse too.  Anytime you write or post something on your own wall (or homepage), your friends will see it.  So far so good - just you and your friends are seeing each other stuff.  However, this is where the privacy thing first starts to get out of control.  If you comment on a friends post, not only will they see it, but so will their friends (who many not be on your friends list).  Even though people you don't know will see your comments, they still won't have access to your Facebook stuff if they are not on your friends list. 

But the basic rule on Facebook is this ... don't write, comment or share anything that you don't want the rest of the world seeing!  Although there is some basic privacy on Facebook, you have to conduct yourself as if there is none.

We'll talk more about privacy and danger issues related to Facebook later, but for now, I hope you have a better understanding of what Facebook is and how to get started using it.