A Facebook profile is a collection of facts about you: everything from where you went to school and how old you are, to what kind of romantic relationship you're in (or hope to be in) and your favorite TV shows. All your Facebook friends and fellow network members can see your profile details (except for the Facebook members you explicitly exclude; see Chapter 13).
Facebook automatically creates a bare-bones profile for you based on the info you entered when registering. Whether or not you add additional details—and how much you add—is up to you.
If you do decide to flesh out your profile, brevity and truthfulness pay off by helping Facebook connect you with like-minded folks. That's because Facebook automatically lists your profile answers in the search results other members see. The site can also suggest potential "friends" by matching your profile answers with those of other members (see Chapter 3).
When polishing your profile, ask yourself:
What do I want to get out of Facebook? If you just want to check out your ex-spouse's Facebook profile, you don't need to waste time crafting one of your own. But if you hope to use Facebook to do some networking and land a job, spending some time and effort building your profile is definitely worth the effort.
How security-conscious am I? Although Facebook's success is based, in part, on its scrupulous commitment to member privacy, the sad truth is that everything you put on the Internet is subject to possible misuse and theft—including what's in your Facebook profile. Think twice about including political, religious, sexual, and other sensitive proclivities unless revealing these details is absolutely necessary. For example, if you registered for Facebook specifically to connect with other political activists in your area, fill out the political section of your profile. Otherwise, skip it.
How much time do I want to spend on this? Profile building can be a huge time suck. If you're anxious to start using Facebook, just add a few details now. You can always add more later (Adding Basic Information).
If all you add to your profile is one detail, make it a flattering picture of yourself. Doing so is quick, easy, and lets folks who already know you identify you right off the bat—even if your name is John Smith.
To view your profile:
If you just finished registering by clicking the link in the confirmation email (Signing Up for an Account), you're already logged in.
Head to the top of any Facebook screen and click Profile.
Over time, your profile can get so huge you can't read it easily. To collapse a category of info, click the down-arrow icon next to the category's header. (Click the resulting right-arrow to expand the category again.)
The profile that appears shows all the information you've given Facebook. If you've just registered, the only details you see are the bare-bones ones Facebook got from you during the registration process.
Most of the information Facebook categorizes as "basic" really isn't all that useful. You'll probably just want to type in your hometown and country information and skip the rest. (You can skip all of it, if you like; Facebook doesn't require you to fill out any profile information.) Here's how to add basic info to your profile:
At the top of any Facebook screen, click the "edit" link.
On the page that appears, click the Basic tab (if it's not already selected).
In the Basic window, fill in as many of the following fields as you like:
Birthday. If you accidentally gave Facebook the wrong date when you signed up, you can change the day or month of your birth here (but not the year). To hide your age or birthday from folks who can see your profile, from the "in my profile" drop-down list choose "Show only month & day" or "Don't show my birthday".
If your fingers slipped during the registration and you need to change your birth year, you can't do that on the Basic tab. You have to request the change from Facebook's customer service (www.facebook.com/cs_forms/birthday.php).
Religious Views. Type whatever you like in this field. If you need more than the 100 characters Facebook gives you, you can expound on your theological leanings in the About Me field of the Personal section (Adding Personal Information).
When you're finished, click Save Changes. Or, if you want to discard what you entered, click Cancel.
After you register, Facebook members can contact you several different ways, including sending you a message in Facebook and writing on your Facebook "wall." But if you like, you can give folks additional ways to contact you by listing your street address, phone number, and instant messaging screen names. Here's how:
At the top of any Facebook screen, click the "edit" link, and then click the Contact tab.
In the Contact window that appears, fill in as many of the following fields as you like:
Clicking the "Only my friends" lock icon next to a field tells Facebook to hide the contents of that field from anyone you haven't specifically accepted as a Facebook friend. For example, by clicking the icon next to Mobile Phone, you can make it so that Sarah (who's in your network) can't see your cellphone number when she pulls up your Facebook profile, but George (who's one of your Facebook friends) can. See Chapter 13 for details.
Emails. Oddly, clicking Add/Remove Emails doesn't actually let you add or remove emails. Instead, clicking this link lets you change your primary email address—the one you entered when signing up for your Facebook account (Signing Up for an Account).
Although Facebook restricts you to a single primary email address, you can associate multiple email addresses with your account, which is useful if you want to join multiple networks. For the how-to, see Suggesting a New Network.
Screen Name(s). If you've already got an account with an instant messaging service such as AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), you can add your instant messaging alias or screen name to your account. Doing so lets anybody looking at your Facebook profile see if you're logged into your instant messaging program (Facebook displays a green dot next to your screen name when you're logged in). If you're logged in, people with an instant messaging program installed on their computers can click your screen name to start messaging you.
To add a screen name, type it into the field and then, from the drop-down list, select your instant messaging service. Your choices are AIM, Google Talk, Skype, Windows Live, Yahoo, Gadu-Gadu, and ICQ. Facebook lets you add up to five different screen names.
Mobile Phone, Land Phone, Address, City, Country, Zip. If you wouldn't feel comfortable heading to your local community center and tacking up a flyer listing your phone number and street address, you probably don't want to add these details to your Facebook profile.
Website. You can list multiple Web sites; just make sure you type each URL (such as www.mycoolsite.com) on its own line. Feel free to skip the http://; Facebook adds it automatically.
When you're finished, click Save Changes, or click Cancel to discard your changes.
Thanks to its roots as a souped-up yearbook for college students, Facebook encourages you to wax rhapsodic about such personal details as your hobbies, your favorite bands, and what you're looking for in a potential mate. To add that kind of info, follow these steps:
In the Personal window that appears, type as much as you like into any of the fields: Activities, Interests, Favorite Music, Favorite TV Shows, Favorite Movies, Favorite Books, Favorite Quotes, and About Me.
Adding reams of personal tidbits—for example, typing a couple pages' worth of info into every field in the Personal tab—marks you as a Facebook newbie.
When you finish, click Save Changes and Facebook automatically updates your profile. (Click Cancel to discard your changes.)
Unless you plan to use Facebook as an online dating service, you can probably skip the next three steps.
Turn on the checkboxes and select from the drop-down list to describe your relationship status and preferences.
If you do decide to fill out the Relationship section of your profile, keep in mind that Facebook—like all communities, online and off—ascribes very specific meanings to what might seem to be innocent labels. Choosing a Relationship Status of "It's Complicated" or indicating that you're looking for "Whatever I can get", for example, pretty much guarantees that sooner or later you'll receive the electronic equivalent of mash notes. (Adding provocative photos to your profile makes that even more likely, of course.)
When you're done, click Save Changes or Cancel.
If you're a student or work at a decent-sized company, adding a few school- or work-related details to your profile is well worth your time. After all, the whole point of Facebook is to try to mimic your real social circles—and if you're like most folks, a lot of your real-life friends are fellow students and co-workers.
Taking the time to add these details also comes in handy for connecting with long-lost pals, because Facebook lets you search for people based on matching profile details. So, for example, you can easily look up folks who were in your graduating class.
To add details about the schools you attend now (or attended in the past):
At the top of any Facebook screen, click the "edit" link, and then click the Education tab.
In the Education window that appears, fill out any of the following optional fields:
Class Year. Choose the year you graduated high school from the drop-down list.
The email address you used to sign up for your Facebook account doesn't have to be a valid school email address (one that ends in .edu, such as firstname.lastname@example.org) for you to add school details.
Click Save Changes or Cancel.
To add details about your work life:
At the top of any Facebook screen, click the "edit" link, and then click the Work tab.
In the Work window that appears, fill out any of the following fields:
Time Period. Turn on this checkbox if you're still at this job, and then click to select the month and year you started. If you leave this checkbox turned off, Facebook displays another set of Month/Year fields for the date you left the company.
You can list up to five different employers/jobs by clicking the "Add another job" link.
Until you add a picture to your profile, Facebook displays a giant question mark. Replacing that question mark with a picture of yourself is a good idea because it helps searchers identify you more easily. But you don't have to stop with a single profile picture. Facebook lets you create a Profile Picture Album containing multiple pictures, each of which you can give an optional caption (see Viewing Your Facebook Home Page).
Facebook lets you upload additional photo albums (Sharing Pictures) and even tag the pictures you upload—including your profile picture. Tagging is a nifty way of assigning a portion of a picture to a specific Facebook member's name. For example, say you upload a shot of yourself that shows a co-worker lurking in the background. You can drag your mouse to outline your own head and assign that portion of the picture to your own name, and then outline your co-worker and assign that portion of the picture to your co-worker's name. Tagging helps Facebook members find pictures that include them, wherever those pictures may appear—on a friend's site or a mortal enemy's. For the skinny on tagging, check out Tagging (Labeling) Your Pictures.
In the Picture window that appears, click Browse. The File Upload window that appears lets you search your computer for the picture file you want to add. Make sure the file you choose has an extension of .jpg, .gif, or .png, and that it's smaller than 4 megabytes (it probably is—JPG, GIF, and PNG files tend to be pretty small). After you make your selection, the name of your file appears in the Upload Picture field.
Click Upload Picture. The next time you view your profile (Viewing Your Profile), you see your picture instead of the giant question mark.
If you like, you can tweak your picture or add more pictures to create a Profile Picture Album. Here are your options:
To upload an additional picture to your Profile Picture Album, simply repeat steps 2–4.
To change your profile picture to another picture you've already added, click the Profile Picture Album link (it's on the left, above your current picture). Then, in the window that appears, click the picture you want. Finally, at the bottom of the window (scroll way down), click the Make Profile Picture link and, in the confirmation box that appears, click the Yep! button.
Facebook displays a tiny thumbnail version of your profile picture in various places around the site depending on your Facebook activities. For example, if you join a group (Chapter 6), Facebook displays your thumbnail on the Members section of the group's profile page. If you become friends with another member, your thumbnail appears on that person's Friend List.
To tweak the thumbnail version of your profile picture, mouse over the thumbnail until your cursor turns into a four-headed arrow; then drag to move the contents of the picture around in its teensy-tiny thumbnail frame. When you're happy with the way things look, click Save Thumbnail Version.
To delete a picture from your Profile Picture Album, click the Profile Picture Album link, click the picture you want to remove, and then click Delete This Photo.
Captions appear when folks viewing your photo album mouse over pictures. To add a caption to your profile picture, click the Profile Picture Album link, and then click Edit Photos. In the window that appears, head to the Caption field that's next to your profile picture, type your caption text, and then click Save Changes.
For a site that doesn't advertise itself as a photo-sharing site, Facebook lets you do a surprising amount of stuff to your pictures. You can create multiple photo albums, order prints online, share your photos with Facebook members (and non-Facebook members)—even rotate your photos 90 degrees. At the top of any Facebook screen, click the "edit" link, click the Picture tab, and then click the Profile Picture Album link. In the My Photos—Profile Pictures window that appears, click any picture, and then scroll to the bottom of the window to see your options.