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Facebook: The Missing Manual by E. A. Vander Veer

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Chapter 1. Getting Started

Google, the iPod, spam: Only a handful of technological forces have gone from tiny to towering seemingly overnight, and Facebook can now join this elite crowd. One big reason: Setting up a Facebook account couldn't be easier. In the time it takes to say "howdy," you too can be part of the frenzy.

Then—if you like—you can fill out an optional Facebook profile, a series of questions regarding your likes, dislikes, educational and professional background, and so on. You can even include photos of yourself. The more accurately and completely you describe yourself to Facebook, the more useful you'll find the site. (After all, headhunters and old college buddies can't find you if you fake your information.) This chapter shows you how to sign up for an account, fill out your profile, and get to your personalized Facebook home page.


Of course, the more information you give Facebook, the more risk you take that someone will steal or misuse that information. See Chapter 13 for ways to get the most out of Facebook while minimizing your risk.

Signing Up for an Account

Facebook accounts are free, and have only two requirements: You need a working email address, and you have to be over 13 years old. Here's how to sign up:

  1. Point your favorite Web browser towww.facebook.com. If you're on a Windows computer, you'll get best results with Internet Explorer or Firefox. If you're on a Mac, use Firefox or Safari. (If you're not familiar with Firefox, check out www.firefox.com.)

    Figure 1-1. 


    You probably don't want to sign up for Facebook using your cellphone—there's quite a bit of typing involved—but in a pinch you can; see Chapter 14.

  2. Click the green Sign Up button.

  3. Fill out all the fields on the Sign Up page that appears. Facebook doesn't let you skip any fields, but you can change your answers later (Changing Account Information).

    • Full Name. Facebook expects you to use your real name, not an alias. Don't type in the name of a group or company, and don't include special characters (like parentheses) or titles such as Mr., Ms., or Dr.

      If you like, after you finish the sign-up process you can add your maiden name to your account so people you knew before you got hitched can find you. To do so: At the top of any Facebook page, click the "edit" link, and then click the Relationships tab and type your full maiden name in the Former Name field. Click the Save Changes button when you're done.

      Figure 1-2. 


      For the most part, it's up to you whether or not you give Facebook accurate personal details. But Facebook actually uses a combination of computer programs and real, live humans to weed out obviously bogus registration details. Type in Elvis Presley or Mickey Mouse for your full name, for example, and there's a good chance your registration won't go through.

    • I am. Choose "in college/graduate school" or "in high school" and you'll be asked for more info, including graduation year and the email address associated with your school. Choose "at a company" and you'll need to type in your work email address. Choose "none of the above" if you don't have a valid school- or work-related email address.


      If you're worried about identity theft, you can get a free email address from a site such as www.yahoo.com or www.google.com to use with Facebook (instead of using an actual school- or work-related email address). But this anonymity will cost you: Only folks with valid school and work addresses can join school- and work-related networks (Chapter 2).

    • Email. This is your primary account email, so you need to make sure you type in a working email address. If you don't, you won't receive the confirmation message Facebook sends you, and therefore won't be able to complete the sign-up process. If you're interested in joining your employer's or school's Facebook network (Chapter 2), use your employee email address () or your student email address (), respectively.


      You can add additional email addresses to your account later, if you like—see Suggesting a New Network.

    • Password. Make up a six-character or longer, case-sensitive password (you can use numbers, letters, or punctuation), and then jot it down in a notebook or some other safe place so you don't forget it.

    • Date of Birth. Make sure the year you choose puts you over age 12—Facebook doesn't let under-13s use the site.

    • Security Check. If you wait too long to type in the words that appear right above this field—say you get called away from your computer and leave the half-finished Sign Up page overnight—Facebook may refresh the words and ask you to type in the new ones.

    • Terms of Use checkbox. Ideally, you should click both the Terms of Use link and the Privacy Policy link and read both of them before you turn on this checkbox. In reality, though, you'd need three hours and a law degree to make sense of them. And because Facebook reserves the right to change them any time it gets the urge, you'd have to keep re-reading them every day. So just put a check mark in the box.


      Here's the gist of Facebook's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy: Be nice (don't spam anybody or post pirated stuff), be honest (leave out personal details if you must, but make sure the details you do give Facebook are accurate), and don't blame Facebook for anything bad that might happen (your office Christmas party pictures ending up in National Enquirer after you post them on Facebook, for example). Break these rules, and Facebook reserves the right to refuse you service.

  4. Click the "Sign Up Now!" button. If you forgot to fill out any of the fields, you'll see the Sign Up page again, this time with a message at the top that reads, "You must fill in all of the fields." If you filled everything in to Facebook's satisfaction, then you'll see a confirmation box.

    Figure 1-3. 

  5. In the confirmation box, click the "Go to" button, or just open your email program the way you usually do. Either way, in your email inbox you'll find a message from Facebook asking you to confirm that you want to join.


    Facebook's pretty quick about responding to registration requests. Typically, the automated confirmation email shows up in your inbox within a couple of minutes.

    Figure 1-4. 

  6. In your email program, click the confirmation email's link (or cut-and-paste the link into your Web browser). Bingo: Facebook displays a welcome message on your newly created, personalized Facebook home page. Congratulations—you're officially registered! (You're automatically logged in, too.)

    Figure 1-5. 


    After you register, the generic Facebook home page changes to one that's personalized just for you. The green Sign Up button you saw before you were a logged-in member disappears, and in its place you see links to useful things you can do in Facebook, like search for friends who are already Facebook members (Finding Friends) and view and edit your Facebook profile (Viewing Your Profile).

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