Mac Corner: What is this thing called Facebook?

By Larry Grinnell, Palm Beach Phoenix Apple Users Group

Larry GrinnellFor the last several years, the web has taken on a new personality with something called Web 2.0.  Web 2.0 changed things. It brought a more social aspect to life on the web. This new class of websites, including Digg, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so many more, provides the means for people to reach out to each other, and to build a group mentality in a grass-roots, non-corporate kind of way.

People want to know what other people are listening to on their iPods, what TV shows others are watching, what books they are reading, what snack foods they are eating, etc. This technology brings together more people who enjoy the same things, and want to reach out, even if it’s only digitally. People want to feel like they belong to something, but don’t want the pesky issues of having to actually get in the car and go someplace to do all that belonging stuff.

Facebook is a community of people from an infinite number of walks of life. It could be family, it could be high school/college alumni, music lovers, co-workers (with very limited parameters), friends and neighbors, celebrities, and more. This free service provides a venue for you to post photos, movies, and other media to share with the people you have “friended.”

This is how it works: You search for names of people you know, or common themes (high school or college, for example). When you find people you know, or whom you would like to know, you ask them to be your friend. Once you have a group of friends, your job isn’t over by a long shot. In fact, it has just begun. You now need to keep your friends interested in you by posting content on the site that is delivered to your community of friends. They in turn can attach comments to your postings. You can then put in your two cents’ worth to their comments, and it just goes on and on.

Here’s how I use it. I had been bugged by my cousin, Joyce, for many months. She wanted to “friend” me on Facebook. I kept resisting because I felt it was an activity trap that would take too much of my time from other pursuits. Well, that part is true. It’s addictive.

Once I joined and friended Joyce, I saw her comments to her daughters and son, whom I had not seen in almost 18 years. As I am the family historian/genealogist/archivist, I was able to put up a small photo album of pictures going back to the late 1920s of family members long passed. My cousin’s daughters never knew some of these people, and fondly remembered others. There was a long string of comments about those pictures and it made me feel good to share these with an appreciative audience.

I’m also getting back in touch with some high school friends, and will likely be helping to set up a special alumni group to start planning for the next reunion, which will hopefully locate other alumni who have thufar evaded our intrepid organizer into the fold. The more the merrier.

That’s the thing about social media. It’s user-generated, virtually free, and it puts people into focused categories that attract advertisers who, more than ever, want to make sure their ad dollars are being spent wisely. You can join as many groups as you want, and you can easily start new ones at any time.

The dark side of social media is if you tend toward sharing your bad behavior with others. Not a good idea. Employers and potential employers look for your presence on these social media sites, and if they find pictures of you participating in drunken debauchery, they might just think twice about hiring you. This is also why you might want to think twice about friending co-workers and superiors from your office.

Think about it this way--do you want your co-workers or bosses seeing pictures of you at some event, half-dressed, guzzling vast quantities of your favorite alcoholic beverage, while perhaps participating in other questionable behavior? Just because you can post anything that’s mostly clean on these sites doesn’t mean you should!

It is also a potential delivery source for viruses and malware, one reason the U.S. Marine Corps has banned the use of Facebook and similar sites from U.S. government computers. Many corporations have blocked access to these sites for the same reason.

Mac Corner runs every Wednesday only in Palm Beach Click to read the previous column.

About Larry Grinnell: Larry has been working with Macintosh and Windows PCs for over 25 years and worked as a senior technical writer and IT support professional for a major midwest-based consumer electronics and telecommunications equipment manufacturer here in South Florida. His musings on a wide variety of topics from computers to jazz guitar to strange foreign cars from the 1950s can be viewed at the website. Click here to reach him by email.

palm beach phoenix logoWriters of this column are members of the Palm Beach Phoenix Apple User Group, a nonprofit organization for Apple Computing Device Users, recognized by Apple Inc., with the purpose of providing educational training and coaching to its members (students, professionals and seniors alike) in a cordial social environment. The club meets the second Saturday of each month from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Fire Station #2, 4301 Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach (just two block south of Southern Boulevard). Click here to visit their website. Click here to reach them by email.




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