I am a member of Facebook the social networking service. I'm not alone. According to estimates, 50 percent of the good folks in the U.S. have a Facebook account, and the website boasts over 845 million active users worldwide. As statistics go, that's not too shabby for a grass roots idea that began in a dorm room at Harvard less than a decade ago.
In general terms, Facebook is a place to share photos and information with others who sign up to be your Facey friends. How and what (and if) you share is up to you. Over time, my unscientific research has shown Facebook users tend fall into certain categories defined by the way we use the social networking site.
Photo posters Facebook began as a place to share photos, and this feature continues to be a favorite for many users. Photo posters share images of their son's wedding, a family vacation to Disneyland and new pet puppy. They also post photos of their car's flat tire, an old surgery scar and their dog's fleas. I learned of my daughter's new hair color and cut via Facey. Is this a good thing? I'm not sure.
Fitness updaters When you log on FB, you'll likely come across a group I call fitness updaters. These folks use Facebook as a sort of journal to report on their healthy lifestyle habits. A possible entry from an updater might read something like, "Jogged five miles today and then biked halfway across the state. Ate a strawberry for a snack. Lunch was two Triscuits, 14 peas and half a banana. Doing sit-ups now as I type."
I am inspired by fitness updaters, or at least want to be. Truth is, in my world exercise and multitasking don't mix. I'm not that talented. Still, I enjoy living vicariously through my six-pack touting triathlete friends. Most days.
Lurkers Lurkers stay within the shadows of Facebook. They are invisible, reading comments, viewing photo albums and scrolling through status updates without ever typing a word of their own. Lurkers may fear the public nature of Facey. Once you make a statement, it is available for the world (or at least your 172 friends) to see. I admit, sometimes I am a lurker.
Likers I also find myself being a liker. Facebook gives you the option of commenting on status updates, or you can simply express your support by pressing the like button. I press the like button a lot. I like to like and want to be liked. I want others to experience the like. It's like a regular like fest over on Facey, and I like it that way.
Gamers Facebook is a place to play, games that is. Users collect farm animals, play arcade games, try their luck with casino slot machines and even engage in an online version of Scrabble with friends. This all sounds like fun, and perhaps just a tiny drain on time. I'd be a game player if it weren't for the fine print. Signing up for said games involves allowing the application in question access to your computer and Facey account even when you are not using them. This scares me. Call me paranoid, but I fear the app.
Kid promoter Parents (and grandparents) use Facebook to share information about the kids in their lives. From them, you learn about baseball games, trumpet lessons, loose teeth and fourth grade math quiz scores. I enjoy reading about other people's kids, except when it becomes extreme and I know more about them than my own children. This makes me feel like an inadequate mother (again). So I do some posting of my own. Yeah, I can be a kid promoter.
Facebook has changed the way we interact with one another. It has increased our ability to share information with dozens (hundreds, even) of friends with a simple click of a mouse. This is (mostly) a good thing. Through Facebook, I have supported friends through difficulties and have requested the same on my behalf. Facebook will never take the place of face-to-face conversation or a real-life hug. Still, I've decided all in all I like it.
Follow Slices of Life on Facebook. Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication" Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com/.