A couple of weeks ago, I did something I swore I never would: I signed up for Facebook. I did it even after a good friend warned me about the trappings of the phenomenally popular online community. “It’s like a disease,” she told me. She was right. Facebook can be addicting. It has some other downsides, too. It encourages people to share mundane details of their lives. And, it forces you to remember another username and password. Yet, for people wanting to keep in touch with friends both old and new, the pros of Facebook far outweigh the cons.
Originally an online community for college students, Facebook has exploded into a global social networking site for people of all ages. According to a recent article in Fortune Magazine, the fastest growing demographic on the site is women 55 and older. Their Facebook presence is up 175% percent since September 2008. The site is also growing rapidly with people in their thirties and forties who are realizing what they’ve been missing.
So, how do you know if Facebook is right for you? The answer to that question depends on a few things. Do you like being online and have time for it? Do you have friends and family already on the site? Do you have loved ones living in other states or abroad? If you answer yes to those questions, then Facebook may be for you.
Among its attributes, Facebook is free and extremely user-friendly. Signing up takes under five minutes. Searching for friends is also simple; you can enter names in a search box or find people by looking at someone else’s list of friends. From sharing photos and information to instant messaging, Facebook was clearly designed to help people keep in touch.
However, some of the site’s best features also have negatives. For instance, because finding people on Facebook is easy, you never know who may track you down. As a result, you may receive a friend request from someone you can’t remember, or worse, from someone you hoped you’d never hear from again. Also, when you post a message on someone’s “wall,” all of his or her friends can read it, too. So, if personal information is shared or an embarrassing photo is posted, it’s out there for a whole bunch of people to see.
So, like anything, Facebook should be done in moderation and with restraint. But if you’d like to connect and reconnect with people in your life, the odds are, you’ll fall for Facebook. Maybe you already have.
### Erika Weisensee is a writing mom and a native Oregonian. She lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism at the University of Portland.