Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Love it or hate it, Facebook is here to stay. Hello Harare and welcome to the inaugural Tech Column!

This month we are going to focus on the ubiquitous Facebook..

Facebook for Friends, Family, Fun

Facebook is known as a social networking web site. It’s designed to connect people by enabling the sharing of information within a user's network of friends, and… it's free.

Web-enabled phones, tablets and laptops have meant an explosion in internet connections, and people are relying on this quick, portable access to share their lives with each other.

Facebook is definitely the way for family and friends from near and far to share their lives in multimedia – pictures, videos, messages, events, instant messaging, video and voice calling… you name it.

There is even a plethora of games made specifically for Facebook users to play with each other. I can play a game of chess, scrabble, poker, or backgammon (to name but a tiny few) with anyone, anywhere, any time. Real people, continents apart, connecting and reconnecting over a shared past time. Amazing!

By making communication so quick and easy, Facebook has found a welcome place in our hectic modern lifestyles, a fact evidenced by the 1.1 billion users, who use it in 70 different languages, and, through advertising generate the company more than $5 billion per annum.

For the ever diminishing number of non-Facebookers, it can seem somewhat daunting at first. Over time, interaction with the site becomes second nature, but if you are flummoxed by what's happening on your screen here are definitions to help you cut through the jargon:

Profile = The personalised page of a user – you have to create one to start using Facebook

Post = To type a message or place a picture on a wall

Wall = Notice board of a profile or page

Like = Show your approval of a post/picture or page

Status = A thought/suggestion/comment that you want to share with all your friends

Friend = A person who is linked to your Facebook page

Facebook in Business

The internet has meant that traditional approaches to reaching consumers have been eroded. Businesses (mine included) are finding it more and more critical to approach their audience via social media, with Facebook assuming priority of place on the list of platforms. Facebook gives organisations of all sizes and types, from Churches, to political movements to banks to hairdressers the opportunity to meet their customers eye to eye by:

• showcasing their products and services

• running competitions (find Harare News on Facebook to see an example!)

• opening up a vital channel of feedback and complaint (Econet are very active on this!)

• seeing what people are talking about in the market they are trying to reach

Hatebook or Greatbook?

The scale, complexity and anonymity that the internet affords makes it not unlike the wild west or high seas. There are riches and excitement for us all, but we need to watch out along the way.

Facebook is no exception to this rule. How we manage our online interactions is a matter of personal security and wellbeing. Here are some common pitfalls and dangers to watch out for as you go:

• Time wasting – although Facebook is a vital part of business strategy these days, it is also a means for people to escape their jobs whilst remaining rooted to their desks and appearing to be very busy. Research has shown that companies who allow their employees to access Facebook at work can see employee productivity drop by up to 30%.

• Addiction – as you build your network you will find yourself diving into an ocean of interactive information, and so much of it will interest you. This sounds good, but Facebook is often used as a distraction from work or issues in our personal lives that need to be addressed. Signs of addiction include: you are permanently online, constantly updating your status, over-sharing on mundane or personal issues, on a wild mission to get more friends, permanently worried about Facebook image, compromising of face to face relationships for online ones.

• Facebook Envy – This is envy on a macro, global scale, envy like we have never seen before! Having access to other people's photos and information means that we are constantly comparing our lives to those of our online friends and even strangers. It is inevitable that feelings of inadequacy creep in, and our solution is to 'stalk' people who we feel superior to. Facebook has the potential to bring out the worst in us.

• Privacy & Security – There are pirates and bandits out there, waiting to take advantage of you. Facebook is an easy avenue for this.

Getting the Best from it

Be aware of your audience – you are reaching more people than you imagine! As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn't want what you are sharing to be posted across Borrowdale Road with your name on it… then don't post it!

Manage your friends – although Facebook is amazing for rekindling lost friendships, some people end up with a glut of friends, thousands of friends! Be aware that this doesn't translate into real popularity or success. What it does do is clog up your news feed with too much content, too many voices, and your enjoyment will be diminished. Try to keep a lean 'friends' list and rely on people you know and trust to populate your news feed.

Protect your information – Facebook's privacy settings are for various reasons very contentious. You must ask yourself now 'Do I want the whole world to be able to see my pictures, posts, and information?' If the answer is no, then check and change your privacy settings, and be careful not to share your real address or phone numbers. It's simply not the place for it.

Live in the real world – Make sure that you are living in your world, and enjoying every minute. Don't live in other people's! Turn off your notifications, and set aside time for Facebook to do fun, face to face activities, rather than the other way round.

About Frampol

Frampol is a cutting edge technology solutions provider. Get a free consultation with us on getting the ideal ICT technology for your educational institution. We make IT work!

Email : [email protected] / [email protected], Phone : 04 487 100, Skype ID : frampol.help

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