Today, I thought I would write about how I use Facebook and Twitter. People seem to fit into three camps with regard to social networking of this sort – those who are totally addicted (like me!), those who dabble and try it but don’t really get into it, and those who wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. When the sites started up, I didn’t really use them much, mostly because I forgot to keep visiting their homepages, but I found out about a few modifications you can make to your browser which makes it a lot easier. I should emphasize that this is just how I use it and how I’ve got it set up to be part of my daily routine, and that lots of people use them differently.
First of all, why use Facebook and Twitter anyway? Well, I love Facebook’s ability to find people I’ve lost touch with over the years, and also to get to know people better from email discussion groups, etc. It is easy to post photos and link up to blog posts so your friends know when you have updated your blog. And you can link Twitter to your Facebook status (the little news feed which tells your ‘friends’ what you are doing) so you can post little snippets throughout the day: it is less intimidating than writing a whole blog post.
I use Firefox as my browser, so in this post I’ll be referring to my set up on it. I stopped using Internet Explorer a few years ago when I had problems getting online on it due to an ISP glitch, and never went back. The good thing about Firefox is that it is open source software: anyone can write plugins or addons for it. I installed the Facebook Toolbar but I found that, as I use a laptop, a whole new toolbar took up too much of the screen, so I worked out that if I just had the little ‘Facebook home’ icon on there that would be enough to remind me to visit the site regularly. So to get to Facebook I just click on that (it is a little blue house icon).
To customize the Firefox toolbars you click on View > Toolbars > customize, and a box pops up with lots of icons, separators, etc. You can then just click and drag stuff off the toolbars on to the box, and vice versa. It’s a good way of cleaning up your browser screen!
Another good Firefox addon which incorporates Twitter into my daily surfing is Twitterfox. When it is installed, it looks like a little blue ‘t’ on the bottom right taskbar. When I click on that ‘t’, a box pops up with all the recent Tweets of the people I follow and there is a box in which I can type my own tweets. It also automatically converts long urls into shortened versions. The point of Twitter, I think, is that you don’t keep up with the news exhaustively, but that you can dip in and out and see who has posted a snippet. You can download a Twitter client called Tweetdeck, which I tried once, but I found I just didn’t turn it on, whereas I have Firefox open all the time anyway! It is useful in that you can sort your followers into groups, but I have now decided to only follow as many people as I can keep up with, and Twitterfox is fine for that purpose.
I have linked Twitter to my Facebook updates so that whenever I tweet, it automatically updates my Facebook status. There is also a Facebook application called Networked Blogs, which will link your blog feed to Facebook so that whenever you publish a blog post, a brief excerpt shows up on your Facebook news feed. (The news feed is the page that you read when you go to Facebook – all the updates and ‘stories’ from your friends). There are other ways to link a blog but this is the one I like best. Here is this blog on Networked Blogs if you’d like to see it in action.
Another way I use Facebook is an important one for me, because, belonging to a couple of busy email groups and having this blog, lots of people add me as their ‘friend’. Facebook has an ability to sort your friends into groups. So I have groups of university friends, groups of bloggers, groups of people from the various discussion groups I’m on, groups of family members, etc. Then if I just want to read the updates from one particular group, I can click on that group on the left hand side of the Facebook home page and it takes me to them. That way I’m not overwhelmed with updates from people I don’t know or miss updates from people I know well.
To sort friends into groups on Facebook, click on ‘Friends’ at the top of the page, and click on ‘Create New List’. This will bring up a box with all your friends in it, and you just select the ones you want to be in that group. Then just click on ‘create list’. To remove people from the list, you just click on their icons again. You can choose which groups show up in the left hand sidebar of the homepage by clicking and dragging them to rearrange them.
Another thing I like about Facebook is the ability to leave a comment on someone’s update: some quite amusing conversations have been struck up that way! It’s a nice way to have a bit of social contact during the daytime, which I often miss out on, working from home. There is also a chat facility which I’ve been known to use to call teenage sons from their bedrooms two floors up, to tell them that lunch is ready!)
Lastly, a lot of people complain about all those pesky ‘apps’ – quizzes, games and suchlike – that clog up their newsfeeds. Well, did you know you can hide them? If you hover to the right of one of them on the newsfeed, a little box pops up giving you options to hide them … and you can hide either all apps of that sort or the person posting them altogether…. And if you want to avoid apps altogether, try Facebook Lite – a new, pared down, Facebook designed for those with slow bandwidth. It is still in beta but I quite like it. The only issue I have with it is that you can’t have your friend groups in there.
Do leave a comment and tell me how YOU use Facebook and Twitter – it will be nice to have a conversation on the various possibilities!