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Posted: February 27, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Facebook for "adults"

If you’re not on Facebook, you’re part of an ever shrinking crowd these days.

I’ve had Facebook for several years now, but in the last few months I’ve had high school classmates, 4-H friends, co-workers, and relatives of all ages popping up on a daily basis.

In the last month alone, 25 million new users have joined the free social networking site, according to the Sacramento Bee.

You may think this is just a thing for the younger set, but think again: membership has grown 276 percent among those 35 to 54, and 194 percent among those 55 and older since June, according to research in the same article.

For me, this is encouraging news — not only am I reconnecting with friends and family, but I’m also seeing more adults actively using the same sites their kids use.

This makes Facebook more like a small town.

In high school, I ate at Chick-Fil-A in Conyers on an approved school trip. By Sunday morning, someone had told my parents they saw me skipping school in Conyers.

In the same way, the more of us frequenting the same Website means the more likely we’ll notice something amiss with our youth.

This isn’t a job just for parents — I believe it is up to friends, relatives, teachers, club leaders, church members and any other trusted adult in each youth’s life. We’re a community in town and online.

A recent study by the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley, discussed the benefits of these new fixtures to youth culture.

They found that youth maintain friendships and connect with others of the same interests — while at the same time gaining and perfecting skills in technology they can use later in life.

They suggested that adults serve an important role in facilitating the usage of the Web by youth and in serving as role models and goal setters in those interest areas.

I’d add that adults literate in the technology youth are using are also better able facilitate the safe usage of new media.

So, here’s a quick and easy guide to get you started on Facebook:

1. You need an internet connection and an e-mail address. E-mail accounts are free at sites such as www.yahoo.com and www.gmail.com.

2. Take a digital photo or scan in a photo. Some people use photos of pets, kids, or objects, but use your own photo if you want people to recognize you.

3. Sign up for a free account at www.facebook.com. It will guide you step-by-step through the creation of your very own page. Be sure to include your maiden name so that old friends can find you easily.

4. Start the search. Look up friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers and anyone else.

5. Now, just check in to your page when you can — but at least once a week to see what is going on with your friends, and to update them with your life.

You can upload photos, share links to your favorite articles in The Covington News, or change your status to tell everyone about the funny decorations you just spotted on the square.

Another alternative to steps 1-3 is to just ask a teenager — I’d bet most will have you up and running in a matter of minutes.

Let me also explain a few of the features on your home page.

Whenever you log in to the site, you will see a list of recent actions by the people you have added as friends. This may include status updates, photos uploaded, or anything else they have changed.

At the very top, a number by your "Inbox" means you have new e-mails on the site.

On the top right hand side, you’ll also see alerts for new friend requests and applications.

Applications are usually virtual gifts, quizzes or games and are written by someone outside of Facebook.

As a new user, consider just hitting "ignore" to all of the application requests until you get more comfortable on the site. There’s nothing more annoying than someone who sends a million requests each day.

What, you still don’t think you can do it? Trust me, anyone can get started, and as soon as you add a few friends you’ll have someone to ask questions about the site.

Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Educator. She can be reached at 770-784-2010 or tkimble@uga.edu

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