All Things Facebook

Reprinted from PN April 2011

Facebook allows people with disabilities to connect or reconnect with friends, family members, and fellow students as well as make new friends and even find love!

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Last time, I wrote about the iPad—I’m still in love with mine but paying close attention to the iPad 2 rumor mill. By the time this article is in print, we should know if the predictions for a late February announcement were right.

Two things could make me seriously consider upgrading to a newer iPad: (1) the addition of a built-in camera (like many others and I anticipate) and (2) Adobe Flash support (rumored in at least one blog post I read). The camera built-in would allow me to use the Face Time feature (like video conferencing), and support for Adobe Flash would finally let me see all those web pages that depend on Flash. Oh well, I’ll just wait and see—and maybe I’ll have a used iPad for sale very soon!

This time I promised to focus on social media (Facebook®, Twitter, etc.); however, Facebook is worthy of its own article. Which brings me to a question: Are you one of the 600+ million active worldwide users of Facebook? Statistics indicate you probably are. If you aren’t—keep reading; and even if you are, I encourage reading on, as we explore all things Facebook: what it is and who is using it; how it works and terms to understand; and why you may want to join and start using it.

While I was writing this article, the news has been filled with reports of rebellion in Egypt—and this is just on the heels of government change in Tunisia. According to Newsweek1 and other sources, Facebook and other social media sites online helped topple the dictatorship in Tunisia. And maybe you saw it? During the Super Bowl, GM ran an ad about its new Chevy Cruze that reads Facebook messages to you while driving. But what really is Facebook?

Read the article below

What Is Facebook? Who Is Using it?

Facebook is a website most commonly used for social networking. According to its Company Overview, “Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.”2 And when they say millions, they really mean it. According to Aden Hepburn, founder of the Digital Buzz Blog, as of 2011, Facebook had more than 500 million active users, 48% of 18–34-year-olds check it right when they wake up; and with 206 million Internet users in the U.S., it means 71.2% of us are using the service.3

The statistics for 2010 provide other interesting facts such as:

- More than 35 million users update their status each day.

- More than 3 billion photos are uploaded to the site each month.

- More than 5 billion pieces of content (links, web stories, notes, comments, etc.) are shared each week.

- The average user has 130 friends, spends more than 55 minutes per day on the site, is invited to three events per month, and is a member of 13 groups.4

How It Works; Terms to Understand

On your first visit to Facebook (, it won’t look like much. Something you should notice is “it’s free and always will be.” Even when searching for others, you need to sign up for Facebook to connect with them. To sign up, you’ll need to provide your full name, e-mail address, desired password, gender, and date of birth. After you complete the sign-up form, Facebook will send a confirmation e-mail to the address you provided; clicking on the confirmation link will complete the process.

Once signed up, you are guided through three steps:

(1) Find Friends: If you’re using AOL, Windows Live Hotmail, Yahoo, or other services, you’re provided options to log on and find friends from your list of contacts. Go ahead and skip this step if you wish; the “Find Friends” tab is always available to you.

(2) Profile Information: (High School, College/University, or Employer) This information will help you find your friends on Facebook. You are able to skip the step as well; after the initial three-step process, you can add other details to your profile.

(3) Profile Picture: Set your profile picture by uploading a photo from your computer or taking a photo with your webcam.

After these three steps, you’ll have options to activate your mobile phone in order to receive and send updates via text messaging and to control what information you share on Facebook. Do not overlook this opportunity to learn about privacy on Facebook. The privacy controls give you the power to decide what and how much you share. (See

I won’t provide in-depth information about all the options and functions you have with your Facebook account, as the Help Center is organized and easy to use. Find a Help link on every page in the lower right and in the Account tab at the top right. However, here are a few terms and definitions to get you started:

“Wall”—a place to post and share content with your friends. Use the share menu at the top of your home page and profile to let others know what’s on your mind. You can update your status and share photos, videos, link, and other application content. Things you share will appear as posts on your profile, and can appear in News Feed.

“Like”—a way to give positive feedback or to connect on things you care about on Facebook. You can “like” content your friends’ posts to give them feedback or “like” a Page you want to connect with on Facebook. You can also connect to content and Pages through social plugins or advertisements on and off Facebook.

“Pages” and “Groups”—Pages can only be created to represent a real organization, business, celebrity, or band, and may only be created by an official representative of that entity. Groups can be created by anyone and about any topic, as a space for people to share their opinions and interest in that subject. Groups can be kept closed or secret, whereas Pages are intended to help an entity communicate publicly.

“Applications”—allow you to play social games with your friends, remember friends’ birthdays, share your taste in movies, send gifts to friends, and much more. To find applications on Facebook, see

Why Join Facebook?

I joined Facebook a couple of years ago on an invitation from a family member. At first I was reluctant to post my pictures and information; however, I began researching my privacy options and sought to better understand why I might want to begin interacting more. Though I remain cautious, I have reconnected with friends from high school, college, and even junior high and grade schools I attended more than 40 years ago. It has been quite fun finding old friends and seeing what life has brought their way. Viewing photos or reminiscing with these connections also opens memory pathways in rich and wonderful ways—all from the warmth and security of my home.

So, why might someone with a disability want to join Facebook? A few reasons are on the next page:

-Connecting or reconnecting with friends: Let’s face it, travel for someone like me with quadriplegia presents its own challenges. Yes, I do travel and encourage it—but some people may not be able to, and Facebook could provide a valuable conduit to old friends.

- K-12 Schools: Facebook has provided me an ongoing virtual high-school reunion.

- Colleges: While in school or newly graduated, use the Network feature to connect with fellow students.

- Military: The TogetherWeServed website will work in tandem with Facebook. This site is actually five separate ones, one for each branch of service. It works in fashion similar to Facebook in that you enter a profile and post pictures; however, it also lets us list duty stations with dates, service medals, and other memories. Unfortunately the site is fee based after a ten-day trial period to keep it ad free; Facebook is free because it sells advertisements.

- Making new friends via Groups: As I mentioned previously, Groups can be created by anyone and about any topic, as a space for people to share their opinions and interest in that subject. 

- Finding love: “During the Gulf War, teen Jamie Benefit decided to support the troops by writing a letter of encouragement addressed to ‘Any Soldier.’ Jeremy Clayton was the man in uniform who ended up with the upbeat note. The two continued to write throughout his service but eventually lost contact. That is, until Jamie decided to search his name on Facebook ten years later and write him a message. It was the right Jeremy, prompting the two to finally meet face-to-face and, in turn, fall in love.”5

- Promoting a business or a cause: Official representatives of an entity or cause can create a Page to represent a real organization, business, celebrity, or band. They can help you get information out to a larger audience, especially if you get your Friends and their Friends to Like the Page.


Facebook is all about making connections, whether with friends from your past or new ones. I’ve shared the positive aspects, but there are horror stories to tell and a simple Google search will find them. The bottom line is, be smart about what you post; don’t share things you don’t want people to find, especially questionable photos, addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers (SSNs).

Next Time

I’m not sure what I will write about next, so until then, find and “Friend me” on Facebook. Oh, and be vocal and send in your insights, suggestions, or questions for this column by e-mailing me at 


1 Mike Giglio—Newsweek Education Site, “The Cyberactivists Who Helped Topple a Dictator,” 15 January 2011, available from; Internet. Accessed 6 February 2011.

2 Facebook, Facebook Info, 2001, available from; Internet; accessed 6 February 2011.

3 Aden Hepburn—Digital Buzz Blog, Facebook Statistics, 18 January 2011, Stats & Facts For 2011, available from; Internet; accessed 6 February 2011.

4 Aden Hepburn—Digital Buzz Blog, Facebook Statistics, 22 March 2010, Facebook: Facts & Figures For 2010, available from www.digitalbuzzblog .com/facebook-statistics-facts-figures-for-2010/; Internet; accessed 6 February 2011.

5 The Frisky—Divine Caroline, September 2010, “The Ten Most Romantic Facebook Love Stories,” available from; Internet; accessed 6 February 2011.



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