Explain FaceBook to me like I am five
April 27, 2017 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Assume I have been living in a cave or something. Try to clue me. Thx.

I deleted my FB account due to bad experiences. I then set it back up after having left a bunch of lists and stuff. And didn't log in again for ages and ages. I have zero FB friends. I may never have FB friends. Some stupid game asked me to log in on FB and like them or something. I did and now I am (probably pointlessly) posting blog posts and stuff of mine to my zero friends.

What on earth do people do on or with FB?

posted by Michele in California to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The point of facebook is to supposed to be to share content with people you know. Without being friends with anyone on there you're just kind of using it as a notepad. Which is kind of not advisable because Facebook has been shown to be involved with some shady stuff. If you're using it as a login for some game you want to play that's fine. But otherwise, there's better ways to keep a journal.
posted by bleep at 7:15 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]

You make a profile, and you link to, or "friend", people you know. You can send them a friend request, or they can send you one. The idea is to only be linked to people you know.

You can post text, photos, videos, check-ins at locations, invite people to events, post to groups, play games, chat, and assorted other activities.

In your news feed, the recent posts by your friends (along with advertising and sponsored content) are presented in an aggregated list, chronologically with the most recent at the top. You can also sort by "top stories", which Facebook uses an algorithm to guess which ones you would consider of greatest interest.

There are privacy settings so that you can make your content visible to individual friends or groups of friends depending on what you want them to see. For example, you can put all your coworkers on a list and they only see certain things. Or, all your friends see everything you post, but anyone who isn't your friend can't see anything you post.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:16 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]

I use FaceBook to post things that my friends and family -- many of whom are far away -- can view if they are interested.

There's not as much expectation of engagement as there is with direct communication (like email). That is, I don't get upset if I post a picture of the kids and then DON'T receive a reply from everyone I know.

And if my friends post stuff and I don't check FB for a few days, no worries!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:19 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]

You can also like pages which can be personal or brand pages, so get things posted from media sites or other sites you like. However be aware that your pages interactions become a part of what Facebook knows about you and then it serves you ads accordingly.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:20 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]

People use it a lot of way - I use for news, my hobbies, to plan vacations, shop and look at antiques, etc.

I "Like" a lot of pages and join groups that interest me. Businesses or places post things that interest me like events coming up at museums, festivals in a particular town, etc. I have joined many antique photo groups that post photos and discuss them. I use as a bit of a reminder to myself - I check in at restaurants and sometimes take a picture of the menu to refer to later or similar things. It's been helpful to just remind myself of when I am trying to remember a hotel I stayed at and want to return to but forget the name.
I put photos up there and and group them by travel location, etc and I really enjoy looking at them from time to time. It's the closest thing to a photo album.
I found it most useful by deciding what I enjoy seeing and want to see more of and seeking that out.

Also, I don't like the phone, and am not good at keeping in touch so it helps do that in a very low pressure way.
posted by beccaj at 7:21 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]

Facebook allows you to have very light contact with a lot of people and businesses. It's the one social network that "most people" are on (i.e. even people who aren't that tech savvy, or who only use the internet via their phone). I do a few things on facebook with some regularity

- chat & reminisce and share low level news with family members or old high school and college friends I don't know well enough to email with
- socialize professionally with people who share work interests with me in large groups
- interact with local people and businesses in buy/sell groups and billboard type places
- I also maintain a few pages for professional groups I'm in, low-key stuff

I also cross post a little from other social media (mainly instagram) so that I have a presence there, I don't post much otherwise. I cross-post all my blog posts there (mainly teaser-type stuff "Hey I made a new blog post, it's about this this and this") but people often choose to comment on the stub facebook page rather than on my own blog.

A few things keep my FB experience positive

- I don't talk politics or complicated social issues with people almost ever
- I don't participate in those "now copy this to your status and blabity bla" stuff
- I use a browser extension called FB Purity which lets me block out about 90% of the stuff I never want to see on FB (ads, quizzes, games, 45s name, etc) and also sorts things by "most recent" and not FBs idea of "top stories"
- I basically keep it positive and try to just give people positive feedback on stuff, whether it's a friendly comment, a like on a photo or an answer to a question

I think of it like a friends radio that I can tune in and out of. I don't read all the posts. Some friends of mine can be like "Did you see my post about blabity bla?" and I'll be like "No what was it about?" and if people want to make a thing out of it that's on them.
posted by jessamyn at 7:49 PM on April 27 [14 favorites]

In addition to all of the above, I have sourced recommendations for dentists, places to eat, mechanics, etc etc from friends. I have gone on Facebook during several personal emergencies and had instantaneous help in the form of people coming to jump my car or driving me to help my mother. I have, in turn, helped some of my friends who posted pleas. One of the unexpected benefits of Facebook has been for pets--I have seen probably fifty lost animals reunited with their people. In one case, I saw a post about a lost pup, and two posts down, was a picture of the same dog posted by the person who found him. I got the two together and Rover got home in just a few hours. I have found placements for cats and seen people get help with vet bills. It can be quite a wonderful place. (My husband, however, canNOT deal with FB and always ends up fighting. He is now off permanently.)
posted by thebrokedown at 7:52 PM on April 27

The groups can also be very powerful. One of the biggest groups I'm on is a freecycle-style giving stuff away group, and it functions better on Facebook than on any other platform I've experienced, as the old posts that are no longer relevant just fall off the bottom of my news feed and I never see them.

Groups can also be local, so the equivalent of having a gossip at the local supermarket about the new block of flats going up across the road, or hobby based, which are a combination of showing off, sharing ideas, and a highly specific place to ask advice. Groups can even save documents for sharing, making them great for retaining information. Given your interests, a "Homeless in x city" group may already exist that you can contribute to, or you could start one.

It can also be a way of following politics. Obviously every politician on facebook is marketing themselves, but it can be a low effort way of having some idea what's going on.
posted by kjs4 at 8:04 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]

I use it soley for groups (hobbies, political action, a group formed from a defunct message board). Facebook has largely replaced message boards for that sort of stuff, so I grudgingly use it for that and only that.

Get the Facebook Purity browser extension. It will make your FB experience a billion times better.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:04 PM on April 27

I live about two hours away from the vast majority of my family so Facebook is how I keep up with whatever is going on with my sister and my niece, my sister's boyfriend and his daughter, and a few other family members who seem to post 99% of everything they do to Facebook. My mom and brother also post stuff there from time to time, so that keeps me in the loop about their lives.

I also use it to keep up with some friends from college and various current and former coworkers. There are a few bands I've "liked" on FB, so I get notified if they're touring near me or have a new record out.

I don't play any games there, I rarely post anything other than pictures of my dogs or links to music I like, and I avoid all the stupid memes or "copy this to your status" crap. I don't fight with anyone, and I don't really spend a lot of time there on a regular basis. I mainly see it as a way to keep an eye on various family and friends, and by extension to let them know a bit about what I'm up to.
posted by ralan at 8:05 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]

It's a combination. It can be a kind of opt-in-with-your-approval mailing list that you broadcast stuff like photos or "barbecue at dave's! Be there!" And you can "sign up" for your friends' mailing lists.

I also used to like it as a personalized search engine and subjective question answerer, like Ask Metafilter. I could ask it, "what's the best Indian food in Tacoma?" or "Who's tried Shady Auto Mechanic?" and only get answers from people I know (so I could consider the source) and who know me and what I like.

But I quit Facebook eventually because Twitter does all that without all the extraneous garbage, and Facebook kept doing hostile things with tracking, ads, selectively showing posts, performing unethical "experiments" on people...
posted by ctmf at 9:13 PM on April 27

There is an "Events" section which I find really useful for finding out free/interesting markets, cultural events etc. If your neighbourhood has a private group and you like to hear people complaining about roadworks and getting a heightened awareness of every time someone breaks into a car ("Crime wave") that can also be interesting.
posted by slightlybewildered at 10:38 PM on April 27

Just to emphasise the hobbies side of it: when I started running a moth trap last year, I was looking for a place on the internet to see what other people were catching and to ask for help with IDs, and I assumed it would be a ‘traditional’ bulletin-board style internet forum. But it turns out I was showing my internet age: all the action was on Facebook groups.

So my Facebook is about 50% friends posting jokes & political comments & pics of their children; and 50% moths. But if moths aren’t your thing, presumably it could be horror movies or vintage typewriters or the Green Bay Packers or quilting or whatever.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:21 AM on April 28

Well, about 37% of my FB time is used geeking out on comics stuff in a group which is mainly local coworkers (since FB makes sharing rich media, like videos and pictures easy), 37% is used in scheduling/discussing an online D&D game, and 26% is keeping up with out of town people.
posted by Samizdata at 3:27 AM on April 28

Also, you MIGHT want to link to your FB page in your MeFi profile. That should be good for some friend action. (Because, you know, I looked.)
posted by Samizdata at 3:30 AM on April 28

I use it to keep in light touch with old friends and extended family members. When I first joined there was a lot of asking people "are you on Facebook?" and/or looking people up and friending them. Now if I go to a class or event and meet new people I might look them up on FB - if we had a bit of a conversation and got to know each other a little. I have a lot of knowledgable, creative, interesting people in my friends list and I like seeing what they're reading and thinking about.

When someone posts things that you prefer not to see, but you don't want to unfriend them, you can unfollow them.

You can post something to your feed with varying levels of privacy:
* Public - absolutely anyone on FB can see it. If any of your friends comment on it, all of their friends may be notified that they posted. I rarely comment on public posts unless the subject is very mundane. Once I commented on a public post about social justice and the next thing I knew my kinda-racist-uncle was in my friend's thread spouting off.
* Friends and their friends - All your friends and their friends can see and comment
* Friends - Only people you have friended can see it
* Custom - Can be seen by specific friends or friend list/s
* You have the option of creating a friend list you can post to. For example, I have a small group of good friends and I'll post things to that group that I'd never post to all my friends

Beware of scammers. Someone made a copy of a friend's account the other day and friended me. I accepted the friend request but then checked because I thought we were already friends, and we were. She now had two profiles. The scammer messaged me almost immediately (the acquaintance rarely does) and I asked "how do I know you?" They stopped typing. I contacted my acquaintance to make sure she knew about the situation, reported the scam profile and blocked the user.
posted by bunderful at 5:23 AM on April 28

I signed up in college, ignored it for a while, and then got pulled back in in grad school - every piece of useful school and non-school information was posted to the student 'group.' Now, I use it for a few things:

1. I am in a hobby group where there is an in-person event every day but the location changes frequently. Every day, someone posts in our group to say where we'll be holding the event, and other people respond to say if they're coming or not.

2. The Facebook messenger extension has become very popular with my friends. I have a lot of actual friends who I see regularly who don't even have my phone number or email because they communicate almost entirely on messenger. With messenger, you can message individuals or groups, so they'll start a group chat to plan a casual event like a happy hour or a board game night.

3. Event invites. Many of my friends will invite me to their birthday parties or other fun things through Facebook. When I plan a bigger party, I do the same thing. If I wasn't on Facebook, my close friends would probably still make a point of emailing me, but I would miss quite a few of the other interesting events.

4. If I have been to an event, many people post their pictures on Facebook, and I enjoy seeing them.

I almost never post anything myself, and I try to spend as little time as possible scrolling through my news feed (which is the main area that you see when you first log in, where you see everyone's status updates and links). Sometimes there's a wedding or baby announcement that I want to see, and those usually come to the top, but my news feed has gotten very political. I probably just need to block a lot of people (so that I no longer see their posts).

For me, getting off Facebook would be like saying that I wasn't going to use email or was disconnecting my phone. It's a utility where people contact me to give me information or keep in touch.
posted by oryelle at 6:47 AM on April 28

Basically, I use it to see pictures of friends' kids, and for them to see pictures of mine. There are a few other uses (see below), but that's the killer app.

As I get older, I realize that FB is really a young person's thing. It was great when I was in my 20s. I could organize get-togethers with friends, argue stupid stuff with people I barely knew, and get to know girls I met without having to be too forthcoming and ask for their number or something. Plus I was a lot more expressionistic when I was younger. There seems to be some inherent need for twentysomethings to share their favorite quotes with other people. I don't really do any of that anymore. I'm married, I don't go out anymore, and I've finally realized that arguing online doesn't change people's minds. (I do still have a quote on my profile - somewhat amusingly, "I am the very model of a model major general".)

That said, there are a few uses of it. The kid picture thing, for one. I can't get enough of those. Some of my best friends live in different cities, and I only see them once or twice a year. Keeping in touch with family, likewise. Most of my family lives on the west coast, and even the ones who live closer don't see each other much since my grandparents died. But last night, I chirped an uncle about his favorite NFL team trading a draft pick that the other team used to draft his favorite player. That's the kind of little thing that you do all the time to people you spend time with, but FB makes it easier to do it to people you don't actually see as much.

I do keep a couple of people around because, even though I'm not really great friends with them in real life, they do post interesting, thought-provoking stuff, and their friends are often good for thought-provoking discussion as well. Kind of like AskMe, in the sense that it's not just arguing over each other. But that's only like five people.

And it's helpful for asking questions. I remember once I had to drive to Cleveland and there was construction on the highway. I don't do that often, but many of my friends do, so I posted "hey, does anyone who drives to Cleveland often have a recommendation for a detour around the construction on 71?"

That said, I use it differently than most people, who just seem to post stupid memes, cat videos from local TV news, and fake political stuff that everyone else then comments "FAKE NEWS" on.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:13 AM on April 28

I use to post musings or photos and rack up self-esteem points when my friends like the posts or make fun of me.
posted by sandmanwv at 8:24 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]

I have 'liked' a number of newspapers - local newspaper, NYTimes, Washington Post, LA Times, etc, plus Times of India, London Times, BBC, and more, magazines - The Atlantic, New Yorker, NY Review of Books. Local Classified for sale groups, local legislators, special interest groups, way too many political groups, and interesting people and friends. I have a lively facebook feed. I make it even better by 'liking' artists and groups who post art - recommendations always welcome. I repost lots of political stories, a fair amount of art, local events and I manage a group page for a special interest.

Facebook is not secure. Don't post anything that would be devastating if it became public, or that would notify a burglar that your home is empty.

It's nice to be loosely in touch with people from high school & college, friends who moved, cousins. I'm okay with people who have *very* different political views, as long as they are civil. I assume that socialization happens - my posts have a tiny but actual influence. I avoid drama, don't participate in drama.

If you have someone like me as a 'friend' and the posts are excessive, edit the notifications.
posted by theora55 at 10:21 AM on April 28

Also, you MIGHT want to link to your FB page in your MeFi profile. That should be good for some friend action. (Because, you know, I looked.)

I don't think I am ready for the intensity of friend action just yet. I joined a group and commented on a photo and got like 60 emails notifying me of important updates as other group members commented.

I just wanted to score some free coin for my game and it was sort of funny to use my completely friendless FB account to do it because you know they are paying me in in-game coin to get free advertising. Then I got sucked in, cuz, hey, I actually know my password again and I am online all freakin day anyway.

But, yeah, maybe someday I will try to cadge friend action from my mefi profile.

First, I need to study this problem space for a bit. Thus, this question.
posted by Michele in California at 10:39 AM on April 28

You can control those emails by going into the group, going to Info, and changing group notification settings. You can also turn off push notifications in the same place so nothing pops up at you. I've turned off almost all of mine - I visit and interact when I want to.

(sorry if you know that already.)
posted by oryelle at 10:45 AM on April 28

(sorry if you know that already.)

"Explain it to me like I am five and have been living in a cave."
posted by Michele in California at 10:50 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]

Yep, every single email you get from facebook is optional. You may want to get some and not get others. I get notified via email if someone tags me in a post, for example, and basically nothing else. The default is to have a lot of emails sent (because facebook's target population isn't necessarily savvy with things like settings) but you can adjust these fairly granularly. So a few things you might want to noddle around with in settings

- how often you get emailed
- who can see your stuff (and I should have mtnioned above, I use lists a LOT, so I have a list that is, for example, Vermonters and I can make a post on FB and it only goes to people I live nearby, good for local news that no one else cares about)
- other privacy settings like whether people can post to your wall (you don't have to let them!) or see how many friends you have or even send you a friend request. Also some lookup stuff
- what you have that is linked to facebook, like other websites that might use the FB login scheme

If you're comfortable exploring you can spend a lot of time messing with settings. Facebook still has all the problems that people say it does but there are ways to make it work for you somewhat better.
posted by jessamyn at 1:25 PM on April 28

Also, you MIGHT want to link to your FB page in your MeFi profile. That should be good for some friend action. (Because, you know, I looked.)

I don't think I am ready for the intensity of friend action just yet. I joined a group and commented on a photo and got like 60 emails notifying me of important updates as other group members commented.

I just wanted to score some free coin for my game and it was sort of funny to use my completely friendless FB account to do it because you know they are paying me in in-game coin to get free advertising. Then I got sucked in, cuz, hey, I actually know my password again and I am online all freakin day anyway.

But, yeah, maybe someday I will try to cadge friend action from my mefi profile.

First, I need to study this problem space for a bit. Thus, this question.

No worries. I have a limited number of MeFi FB friends, particularly those I find especially interesting. Otherwise, it is pretty much all people I know/have known IRL.
posted by Samizdata at 1:33 PM on April 28

Cortex, whom I swear is cyberstalking me because he instantaneously sends me emails the nanosecond I post FPPs and the like, has sent me a follow-up reminder regarding this Ask. And I usually don't follow up cuz REASONS, but, hey, I did want to thank everyone who replied because I don't seem to have done that.

Thanks all! And happy Memorial Day tomorrow.
posted by Michele in California at 12:54 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]

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