As a baby boomer myself, I was inclined to dismiss Facebook and the entire phenomenon of social networking with all its other websites as something for kids. However, I have recently come to appreciate its potential for us oldsters as well.
Having signed up, you can create your own community of friends. The beautiful part is that your community is effectively insulated from the rest of the Internet in that only people you have designated as your friends can send you e-mail and vice versa. In other words, NO SPAM. In fact, if your favored e-mail correspondents are also members, you can correspond with them via internal e-mail.
Yes, there are ads on Facebook, but they are small and confined to a specific area of the page, and we'd rather they weren't there, but advertisers cannot send you e-mails via Facebook. So goodbye to Nigerian fortunes, unwanted stock tips, and pharmaceuticals - especially the one that does a magical thing to one part of the male anatomy.
To continue, you create your Facebook community by inviting people to become your friends. An e-mailed invitation goes out to your invitee. They can accept or decline. Likewise, if someone invites you to be a friend, you have the option to decline to let him or her into your community. You will get an e-mail saying that someone has invited you to be a friend; you go to Facebook to exercise your option. If you fill out your profile, people with common interests can find you and ask to be a friend. Your notification e-mail (from Facebook) will contain a message about why they want to be your friend. If you don't want to be their friend, just say no. I do have several common interest friends in Australia, and I expect to have more in various parts of the world
You can share photos with your community and your community ONLY. Let those far-flung people share your Christmas and New Year celebrations! You can even share videos. And do lots of other things that I haven't figured out yet.
Facebook is not paying me to write this (alas). I wrote it because I could not find anything positive about Facebook for baby boomers specifically and people over 30 generally. I simply wanted to make it known that to be a member can be fun; it is what you make it. So far, only one of my ancient friends is also my Facebook friend. We have agreed that one goal for 2008 will be to understand more about how Facebook works. And I'm going to send this article to all of my old-fogey friends so that they will become my new-fogey friends as well!
And, hey, if you join Facebook, you're free to add me to your friends. Just let me know that you read this article so that I'll say yes.
Jeanette T. Wallace, Ph. D.
St. Louis, Missouri