Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 1:30 PM EDT
Is Facebook an evil website that will suck the life from you or is a useful tool that can help you professionally and personally? Yes. Yes it is. If you've thought about using Facebook to stay better connected to family and friends but are worried it will be a huge time and energy drag, or if you've been using it and are about to give up, you're going to learn how to get the most out of Facebook without allowing it to take over your life.
When I first started using Facebook several years ago, it was a joy to connect with grade school friends, family, and those who reached out to me after reading my books and column. I'd log on at night and immediately get chat notifications from friends and strangers. These little conversations always started off innocently enough with "It's been a long time," and "How are you?" but usually within 30 seconds they became more serious. After some very quick pleasantries, an acquaintance from high school confessed of marital difficulties and problems at work. On another evening, a "fan" praised my work and asked for some advice. Fair enough. But then things got downright uncomfortable when he called me a DILF. I had to Google it. (Trust me; you really don't want to know).
I quickly realized I was investing far too much time into something that had lost its joy and felt more like an obligation. Facebook became a job; another task to get done. If that's your fear, help is here.
Follow these five tips to ensure that you Facebook efficiently:
- Determine your Facebook approach. There are a couple of approaches to using Facebook. One is to become Facebook friends with only family and close friends and nobody else. Study partner from junior high school? Denied. Work colleague? Denied. Old college girlfriend? Well, some rules were meant to be broken! This closed network approach will make your Facebook much more manageable, albeit slightly less interesting. The other approach is to open the door and let anyone become your Facebook friend. This can be a good approach if you are doing it for personal and professional reasons. The trick is to determine which approach is right for you before you sign up.
- Become invisible. If you don't want people searching for you or knowing what you're up to, you can become invisible. Go to Account, Privacy Settings, and then select the "Friends Only" option. Then under the Privacy Settings, select Connecting on Facebook. Here you can control who can search for you, send you messages, and view personal information.
- Disable chat. By default, when you login to your account it alerts all of your Facebook friends that you're online. Within seconds you'll feel like Justin Bieber at a QuinceaÃ±era. To disable this, click on the "Chat" box on the bottom right of the page, then options, and then "Go Offline."
- Block (almost) everything! In life and on Facebook, efficiency is about managing the deluge of information. The biggest complaint from Facebook users is getting bombarded with stupid game requests, pokes, invites, quizzes, and the like. You could spend hours a night just responding to these alerts. Get proactive! Facebook allows you to block users, application invites, and event invites. The most common thing you'll want to block are application invites -- requests you get from friends to join them on Farmville or personal trivia type games. Simply rollover the invite and click on the "X" in the upper right corner. From there you can remove the post and even block future invites. You can also go to Account, Privacy Settings, Block Lists, and then block your friends from inviting you (you're not blocking your friends, just their ability to spam you with invites).
- Create lists. This is a feature I had no idea existed until I spoke to the Queen of Facebook, Mari Smith. If you take the open approach to Facebook, you'll find that all of your friends will create a lot of noise -- updates and info that fill up your News Feed (this is the page where you can see all of the activity from your Facebook friends). Creating lists is like having a mute button. It lets you filter out those friends you don't want updates from and highlight those you do. To create a list, go to Account, Edit Friends, and then Create a List. Name your list (e.g. Family) and then select the people you want in it. Then go to your News Feed, click on the triangle next to Top News: Most Recent, and select your new list. You'll now see updates from just those people on that list.
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