As I type this, there are more than 1.3 billion Facebook users and counting. 1.3 billion! That is more than four times the population of the United States.

Facebook’s site is translated in more than 70 languages, and 75 percent of its users live outside of the United States. It is a global phenomenon. In case you are not one of the 1.3 billion, here’s a fast primer on Facebook: What people share on Facebook runs the gamut from innovative ideas to great life philosophies to fun self-expression to promotion of their endeavors to tiresome overexposure to moment-to-moment thought processes.

People share photos of themselves and photos they like, as well as links to articles and videos they find interesting.

Accordingly, you may discover that what is posted is truly worthwhile, or you may perceive it as a huge waste of time. For me, it’s a delicate balance of the two.

If you do choose to venture forth with Facebook or if you already have, I want to give you some sage advice to make sure you’re as safe as possible.


Privacy Precautions

My one rule of privacy for all online social networking, not just Facebook, is The Front-Door Test: Do not put anything on a website that you would not feel comfortable having taped to the outside of your front door. Simple. Easy to remember. No confusing instructions.

Some people use Facebook and other social networking websites to take advantage of people. The most important thing to do is to listen to that voice in your head that says, “This doesn’t seem right.”

I say, “Always go with your instincts!” If something seems hinky, it usually is. Don’t click on what you don’t understand or sounds too good to be true.


Facebook Scams

A common Facebook scam is to impersonate someone who already has a profile on Facebook. Often, money is the big motivator. Once the imposter has lured in your existing friends, they plead a sob story and try to extort money.

But some of these imposters do it just because they can. So, besides the creep factor, it is inconvenient, but often harmless. Nonetheless, you want to be on the lookout.

If you receive a friend request from someone you’re already friends with on Facebook, that is the tipoff. Do not accept the second request. Instead, by private email, phone, or text, let your friend know about the fake request.

Then they or you should notify Facebook. This is a common enough occurrence that Facebook has it in the Q&A and help sections. Here’s Facebook’s response to:

How do I report a fake account that’s pretending to be me?

Impostor accounts aren’t allowed on Facebook. If someone created an account pretending to be you:

1. Go to the impostor profile. If you can’t find it, try searching for the name used on the profile or asking your friends if they can send you a link to it.

2. Click the ellipsis (…) on the cover photo and select “report.”

3. Follow the on-screen instructions.

Facebook will act promptly (it’s in their best interest), and the fake profile might disappear before you have a chance to ask, “What kind of creeps are out there, anyway?”

Don’t be lured in by ads that tout some insider way to see who is viewing your profile on Facebook, or invite you to view some ghastly, morbid photos, or offer the possibility of big prize money. Scam, scam, scam.

Be selective about what you click on and you’ll be fine. There’s so much to enjoy about Facebook. Don’t let these bad apples spoil the benefits.

Abby Stokes, author of “Is This Thing On?” A Friendly Guide to Everything Digital for Newbies, Technophobes, and the Kicking & Screaming and its companion website,, is the Johnny Appleseed of Technology, singlehandedly helping more than 300,000 people cross the digital divide.

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