What is Facebook?
Facebook is a social networking site that makes it easy for you to connect and share with family and friends online. Originally designed for college students, Facebook was created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg while he was enrolled at Harvard University. By 2006, anyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address could join Facebook. Today, Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with more than 1 billion users worldwide.
Why use Facebook?
Have you ever wondered why people like using Facebook? After all, there are already a lot of other ways to communicate online, like through email, instant messaging, and so on. What makes Facebook unique is the ability to connect and share with the people you care about at the same time.
For many, having a Facebook account is now an expected part of being online, much like having your own email address. And because Facebook is so popular, other websites have worked to integrate Facebook. This means you can use a single Facebook account to sign in to different services across the Web.
How does Facebook sharing work?
Facebook allows you to send messages and post status updates to keep in touch with friends and family. You can also share different types of content, like photos and links. But sharing something on Facebook is a bit different from other types of online communication. Unlike email or instant messaging, which are relatively private, the things you share on Facebook are more public, which means they’ll usually be seen by many other people.
While Facebook offers privacy tools to help you limit who can see the things you share, it’s important to understand that Facebook is designed to be more open and social than traditional communication tools. We’ll talk more about sharing and controlling your privacy in our lessons on Facebook privacy and adjusting privacy settings.
If you’re thinking about joining Facebook, this lesson will show you everything you need to get started. We’ll explain some common Facebook terms and how to create a Facebook account. We’ll also explore the Facebook homepage, Timeline, and Facebook for mobile devices.
Common Facebook terms
Friends? Likes? Status updates? If you’re new to Facebook, there are a lot of terms and phrases that may seem a little confusing at first. Reviewing some of the most commonly used terms will give you a better understanding of how Facebook works and what to expect as you get started.
Creating a Facebook account
Before you can use Facebook, you must create an account. Creating a Facebook account is free. All you need to get started is an email address and a few minutes of your time.
To create a Facebook account:
- Navigate to www.facebook.com in your web browser.
- Under the words Sign Up, enter your personal information and desired password, then click Sign Up.
- You can then follow the directions on the screen to find friends, upload a profile picture, learn about privacy settings, and more.
Once you create an account, you’ll want to spend a little time becoming familiar with the different parts of Facebook, including the homepage and Timeline.
The homepage appears whenever you sign in to Facebook. The homepage displays your News Feed, which shows the things your friends have shared on Facebook. The homepage also allows you to navigate to other parts of Facebook, such as your Timeline.
The Timeline (also called your profile page) is where you’ll share information about yourself. Whenever you post an update, it appears on your Timeline. Your friends can also share posts on your Timeline.
Facebook for mobile devices
Facebook makes it easy to connect on the go. In fact, most Facebook users primarily access the site from a mobile device. Facebook offers an official mobile app on a variety of smartphones and tablets, including iOS and Android.
You can use the mobile app to do just about everything you can do in the desktop version of Facebook: post status updates and pictures, read stories and updates, and chat with friends. We’d like to give you a quick overview of the two most popular versions of the Facebook app: Facebook for Android and Facebook for iPhone. While the interface for these apps is somewhat different, you’ll notice that each app gives you access to the same basic features.
Why is Facebook privacy important?
If you choose to share things publicly on Facebook, anyone with an account will be able to find and view your Facebook information, posts, and activity. This could impact your privacy in a variety of ways. For example:
- You could be sharing personal information you’d rather keep private, like your birth date or address.
- Anything you post, such as photos, comments, and status updates, will be visible to people you don’t know.
- Embarrassing or unflattering posts could negatively affect your personal and professional reputation.
- Third-party websites and applications can access and share information from your Facebook account.
Understanding basic privacy settings
Whenever you share something on Facebook, you can choose who you’ll share with. In the infographic below, you can see the most common sharing options, including Only me, Lists, Friends, and Public.
Let’s take a look at these settings in action. For example, let’s say you set all of the information on your Timeline to be visible only to Friends. In this case, this is how your Timeline would appear to your friends:
By contrast, this is how it would appear to someone who isn’t your friend on Facebook. Notice how most of the information is hidden, but the name, profile photo, and cover photo are still visible.
Sharing and privacy
Even if you customize your privacy settings, it’s important to understand that the things you share on Facebook are visible to a lot of other people. This is because Facebook is designed to be more open and social than traditional communication tools.
For example, let’s say you post a photo on a friend’s Timeline. By default, that photo will be visible to all of your friends on Facebook, not just the person you shared it with. The photo will also be visible to anyone who is friends with your friend. This is one reason people enjoy using Facebook—it’s easy to share with lots of people at the same time.
As long as you’re somewhat careful about the things you share, Facebook doesn’t pose a serious risk to your privacy. Before you share anything on Facebook, like a comment or status update, you’ll need to consider how comfortable you are with many people seeing this information. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing something in a public place, you may not want to share it on Facebook either.
Facebook privacy across the Web
You may not realize that your Facebook account extends across the Web. The Facebook Platform is a tool that lets other websites connect with your Facebook account and view your public information. If you’ve ever seen an option to Login with Facebook on another website, you’ve seen the Facebook Platform in action.
When you visit a site that uses the Facebook Platform, you’re bringing all of your public information on Facebook, including your name, gender, profile picture, and friends list. There are three other ways third-party websites can integrate your Facebook account.
Instant personalization allows sites to personalize your experience while signed in to Facebook. When a site uses instant personalization, it draws from the public information on your Timeline to predict the types of content you’ll find interesting. For example, if you have liked reggae music on Facebook, a music site like Pandora might suggest similar artists or show information about the music your friends listen to on the site.
Social plug-ins are tools that let you easily share a site’s content on Facebook. On many websites, this will usually appear as a small Facebook button. Social plug-ins can also show you content from the site that your friends have shared.
Platform apps let you link your Facebook account to an external site. When you add a platform app, you’ll be able to use your Facebook user name and password to sign in to that site. Your activity on that site may also appear on your Timeline. For instance, a music-sharing site might post information about the music you’ve listened to recently, while a news site could share the articles you’ve read.
You can control how other sites work with your Facebook account by changing your app settings. We’ll explain how to do this in our lesson on adjusting privacy settings.
Facebook privacy for minors
Facebook has several policies in place to help protect minors. For example, children younger than 13 are not allowed to use Facebook. Facebook also offers extra privacy protections for users younger than 18. However, these protections aren’t very strong. For example, minors do show up in public search results, and anyone can view their most basic information, including their names and profile pictures.
Unless minors set privacy controls, their other personal information—including contact information, photos, and updates—can be viewed by their friends and their friends’ friends, which includes people the minor may not know or wouldn’t otherwise want viewing their information.
We recommend that parents talk with their children about how to use Facebook safely and help them set privacy controls that make sense.