If the idea of using Facebook makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone. According to the most recent Pew Internet survey, less than 60 percent of people 65-plus who go online use the social network. And that means more than 40 percent are missing out on a tool that can keep us engaged with the world — even if we chose just to lurk in the background, never actually doing what Facebook was originally designed for: getting social.
Why Do So Many People Resist Facebook?
Some people think the whole Facebook thing is a big yawn. After all, who needs to know what someone else ate for breakfast? The quick answer: If you only follow people or public profiles that consistently post stuff you’re interested in, you won’t have to read the silly stuff.
What about fear of Facebook?
If you’re not on Facebook, it might be because you fear for your privacy. The fact is, Facebook is as private as you want to make it. At its most private, you can easily restrict access to everything but your name and profile image (doesn’t have to be your picture) and only let a few people see more.
You can also control who is able to request to be your “friend,” so you don’t have to worry that your college buddy who you never want to hear from again will find and follow you on Facebook.
So, if you’re not going to post, and you’re not open to being “friended,” why would you even bother? Because Facebook is fast becoming a prime source of news on the internet, and many publishers rely on it to disseminate their breaking stories. In fact, a 2016 Reuters Institute study found that 50 percent of people who use the internet get their news from Facebook at least once a week, and increasingly, it’s becoming the top news source for many. It’s also a way that communities of shared interest get information through local, cause related or other Facebook groups.
The Most Private Way to Use Facebook:
As a Newsfeed
If you’d prefer never to say anything on Facebook and make it a one-way street, with you receiving but never offering information, you can. In fact, the easiest and the most private strategy — and the one many people opt for — is to use your Facebook feed to curate your own continually updating stream of news, whether that’s world news, community news, family news or news about a specific interest. In fact according to one survey, by late 2015 only 34% of Facebook users were actually posting personal status updates.
To curate your own newsfeed, just “like” the pages, “friend” the people or “join” the groups that interest you. You can follow specific newspapers and magazines, websites and organizations, towns and communities (a writer’s community, a community for dog lovers), celebrities, family members — it’s your choice.
To follow, search for the person, page or group by name in the Facebook search bar at the top left of any Facebook page.
Facebook will give you a few options; click on the option that matches what you’re looking for. Facebook will take you to the right page. Then just click Like or (for people), Add Friend or Join (for groups).
Once you’ve picked whose posts you want to follow, your News Feed will show you a selection of posts from these people and pages. The more
Facebook decides exactly which posts you’ll see based on what it thinks you’re most interested in. If you don’t much like what you’re seeing in your News Feed, you can learn how to control your settings here. (Read our article about how to control what you see on your Facebook News Feed.)
How to Keep Your Information Private
After a while, you might end up wanting to use Facebook to wish someone you follow a happy birthday (Facebook will remind you by email) — or maybe you’ll feel moved to respond to or “like” a comment you read. And even if you never post or like anything, we’ll assume that you want everything private (meaning that you only want your friends to see it.) Here are ways to ensure that only the people you want to see your Facebook profile can.
Facebook Privacy Basics
To see who can see what in your Facebook profile and set it to most private, go to the top right hand corner of your profile. You’ll see three lines with a lock icon (see the yellow arrow in our screenshot below). Click on that.
Click on Privacy Shortcuts and a menu like this will pop up.
Use the little arrow dropdown next to each of these options to control your presence. To only be seen by your friends, click the following in each drop down. For example, under My Stuff, clicking Friends will only allow your friends to see anything you might decide to post. You can also select Only Me — in which case nobody but you can see anything.
There are more privacy settings you can control by clicking on the Privacy Settings option. One of the most important is the one that controls who can “tag” you in posts. “Tagging” is when someone identifies you by name in a photo or other post of theirs. By turning on Review Posts Friends Tag You In, you’ll get a notification whenever a friend tags you in a post. Their post won’t show up on your timeline until you explicitly allow it. (It will show up on theirs.) We recommend turning this on.
For more detailed information and some simple videos, see the Facebook Privacy Pages.
How to Limit Who Can Contact You
You can allow anyone to contact you — in other words, to request to be your friend on Facebook — by selecting Everyone. However, that would allow old flames, high school friends and current or former co-workers to find you. If you only want friends of your friends to contact you, select the option shown below.
If you prefer, you can simply delete a friend request.
You Can Check Your Privacy Settings at Any Time
You can see what information your profile is showing to others whenever you want. Go to your profile and select View As… on the menu in the lower right corner of your cover photo. You’ll be able to test what your profile looks like to the public or specific friends. If your profile is not the way you want it, use our instructions above to make your changes.
If you’re on Facebook, how do you use it? And if you’re not, do you think you might try it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.