The social networking site Facebook recently hit an astonishing 200 million users. If you have an e-mail address and haven't received a Facebook invitation, chances are you will.
Maybe you're skeptical of Facebook. That's understandable. It is easy to reveal private information accidentally. And the flux of information from your contacts can be difficult to control.
Fortunately, Facebook provides a bevy of tools. Using them, you can get your profile under control in a few short minutes.
The benefits of Facebook
You've heard Facebook horror stories. Employees get fired for their postings. Teens use the site to bully other teens.
With this negative publicity, you may question Facebook's benefits. Simply, Facebook helps you stay connected with friends and family. Use it to share photos, chat and keep everyone updated on your life.
But, there's much more you can do with Facebook. You can use it for business networking and promoting your business. You can also track down long lost friends or follow your favorite celebrities.
Managing your privacy
Privacy is a big deal for many Facebook users, so most of what you do can't be seen outside Facebook.
But, your contacts see virtually everything you post or do on Facebook. You may want to limit what some contacts see.
To access your Facebook privacy settings, login to the site, go to menu bar and click Settings, then Privacy Settings.
First, click Search to access the Search Visibility box. This lets you specify who can find you through Facebook's search feature.
You may want to be searchable. You can still control what's visible in search results. For example, you can hide your profile picture and friend list.
You probably don't want your profile to appear in Google. So, deselect "Create a public search listing..."
You may decide to hide information like your e-mail address and phone number. On the Privacy Settings page, click Profile. In the Basic section, use the drop-down boxes to restrict content in your profile.
There are a couple of important options here.
First, others can tag you in photos and videos. These appear in searches for your name. You can restrict who sees these photos and videos, though.
If you have unprofessional friends, consider limiting Wall posts. By default, all contacts see Wall posts.
Deselect "Friends may post to my Wall" to stop all posts. Or, use the dropdown box to limit who sees Wall posts.
To hide contact information, click Contact Information on the Privacy Settings page. Use the dropdown boxes to specify your options.
Facebook sends updates on your activities to friends. These appear on friends' Walls and News Feeds.
You can control the updates, though. On the Privacy Settings page, click News Feed and Wall. You can opt to suppress updates to your profile. Or, hide activity like comments on photos.
Manage your friends
As in life, some Facebook contacts are chattier than others. Their activities could overwhelm your News Feed.
Maybe you're thinking about "unfriending" these folks. Don't — unless you want to offend them!
You can block contacts from appearing in your News Feed easily. Find one of their entries. Mouse over it. Then, click the Hide button in the right corner.
Or, only show specific friends in your News Feed. Click "+ Create" on your Home page. Follow the steps to create a contact list. This list appears under the News Feed button. Drag it above your News Feed to limit your feed to the contact list.
Need more friends? Click Settings, then Account Settings. Click Manage next to Notifications. Click Show More in the Facebook section.
Click ON next to "I might know is on Facebook." Also select ON next to "I might know joins Facebook." You'll be alerted to potential acquaintances!
Finally, you can block people from contacting you. Click Settings, then Privacy Settings. Enter a name or e-mail address at the bottom of the page. Click Block. Find the person in the list of results and click Block.
As you might guess, I'm on Facebook. You can find me here.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet. To get the podcast or find the station nearest you, visit www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters, sign up at www.komando.com/newsletters. Contact her at email@example.com.