Over Forty and on Facebook.

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I must confess I joined Facebook somewhat reluctantly. A friend had uploaded some photos to her profile and was keen for me to take a look. I didn’t really see myself as the Facebook type. I’m a professional married woman with kids, in her 40s, who views the internet as a very helpful tool but doesn’t have a great deal of time to be tapping away at the PC for no good reason. I suspected that Facebook was just for teenagers, students and computer-obsessed geeks. I must admit to having had a change of heart – let me explain why.

Facebook helps you keep in touch with existing friends.

Like many people of my age I seem to have spent the past twenty years or so constantly on the move – changing jobs, towns, and even countries every few years. I have friendship groups from many different areas of my life – school, university, work, fellow Mums, the various neighbourhoods in which I’ve lived. I have a busy life, juggling work and family, and if I’m honest I would find it very hard to keep in frequent (ie. not just birthdays and Christmas!) contact with more than half a dozen friends if I could only correspond via “snail-mail” or had to rely on the telephone. Facebook allows me to share news, messages, and photos with all my friends on a regular basis.

How is this different from email? Well you can also post updates regarding the various events happening in your life – as they happen – which invite comment from your friends and they can do likewise. Sometimes you get no response – maybe they’re just reading your news! Often however this generates conversation, sometimes over several days, which is ideal if you are in different time zones. If you just happen to be online at the same time you can use the “chat” facility and exchange messages in real time.

I also find it is far too easy to overlook an email from a friend when you are inundated with business emails, junk mailings or spam on a daily basis – it’s even worse when you take a few days holiday! There have also been times where I have sent out an email to a large number of friends – maybe announcing some news, or highlighting an update to a family website – and some friends never receive it because their spam-filters are rather too good!

On Facebook when you post a comment, photos, or a link to a website, that posting is visible to all the friends you want to include. If you leave a message for them personally, via their Wall or Inbox, they will be alerted to the fact a message is there for them to read, so they shouldn’t miss it.

I also like the fact that when you have a number of friends who all know each other and are each other’s friends on Facebook, you can essentially have a multi-way conversation between all of you, either by adding comments in turn to an existing news/status item or by posting on each other’s Walls which you can all view. It feels a lot more spontaneous and “fun” than just emailing.

Facebook can bring families closer together.

Many people connect with their immediate family on Facebook. If you are a “friend” of your Mum you might notice that her sister is on her list of friends. You haven’t been in contact with your Aunt for years but somehow the lack of formality on Facebook makes it far easier to approach her, through a friend request, and swap all your news first-hand, not via your Mum. Once you are friends with your Aunt you may well re-discover those cousins you’ve not seen since you were teenagers and make a connection with them. I’ve also witnessed middle-aged parents (and occasionally grandparents) befriending their teenage and university-age children via Facebook. This might not appeal to everyone but anything that keeps the different generations communicating has to be a good thing surely?

Facebook can help you track down long-lost friends.

Maybe you are pleased to put your schooldays behind you? But don’t you ever wonder what happened to your old friends? It is incredibly easy to track down school friends on Facebook (assuming they have a profile) via the friend finder and/or search facility. You may find it’s as if no time has passed since you last saw them and you strike up a new friendship, or you could have headed in totally different directions. Whatever the outcome it’s certainly an interesting thing to do!

You can join Facebook groups and connect with other people who share your interests.

There are innumerable groups on Facebook which you can join. Some are related to hobbies, interests and work, a number are political, many are based around towns/regions, some bring together alumni from schools and universities, and some are just for fun. You can become an active member of a group, posting messages, links or contributing to discussions, or just be a passive reader – it’s up to you.

You can promote your cause on Facebook.

You can add your voice/support to an existing cause or charity, or start your own! It’s very easy to grow the membership of your own group or cause on Facebook. You can invite all your friends and those that sympathise will join and may well invite all their friends and so on – like a chain letter, but for a positive purpose. Facebook users will also stumble upon your group via the search facility within the site or maybe via Google or other search engines.

You can play games and use applications on Facebook.

You can also play games on Facebook, either on your own, with your friends, or with other Facebook users who are online at the time. I particularly enjoy playing Scrabble and other word games but there are a wide of variety of games and applications for all tastes.

You can log in to Facebook as little or often as you wish.

I enjoy using Facebook for all the reasons outlined above but also because it doesn’t require a huge commitment. I have often thought about keeping a blog but worry that after the initial bout of enthusiasm, when I would be producing an entry every day, I would run out of interesting things to say and blogging would become a chore, not a pleasure. There are many successful bloggers out there who manage to write regularly and have lots to talk about, but I don’t think I would be one of them! With Facebook I sometimes log in to find that lots of friends have gathered and we exchange a great deal of news over a short time. Sometimes I might not “check in” for several days. You can set things up so that you get an email notification if anyone has contacted you so you needn’t miss anything important.

Why not find out more about Facebook and see if it would be a useful social networking site for you. I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and I invite comment from readers, especially fellow Facebook users out there.

Standard Disclaimer: The author does not claim to be an expert in the subject described in this article and accepts no liability for any loss or damage caused by inaccurate information or unsuitable guidance.

Copyright: CambridgeLady, 8th April 2009.

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