1. Facebook is social software. Of course, it is, which is the reason Facebook and Myspace is so attractive to teens and college students. These students constantly communicate openly about their lives, their opinions, their interests, and their academics. Although most of us working adults are uncomfortable sharing information in open environments, the social aspect of Facebook is what makes it fun and speeds the learning process.
2. Facebook gives you the opportunity to decide what you want to share, what you don't want to share, and what you want to share with selected friends.
My daughter "friended" me in Facebook. She allowed me to see her status and photos, but she does not want me to see what her friends have to say....hmmm that makes me wonder. But, the point here is that she controls what I see on her space. Likewise, I can control how much information I give out about myself and I can limit certain portions of information to certain friends.3. The structure of Facebook emerges over time. Users can create groups and discussion topics. These groups can grow, or be left alone to die, depending on the users and their participation. Kevin Gamble created a Cooperative Extension group. If you create a Facebook account and you work for Cooperative Extension, "friend" me and I'll make sure you are invited into the Cooperative Extension group (Kevin and others can do this, too).
4. From the teenagers' and college students' perspectives, not using Facebook is a "social liability". For some professionals, not having an online presence can also be a professional or career liability.
5. Facebook is a one-stop shop for sharing media, blogging, calendaring, communicating, sharing information, etc. Facebook can give Cooperative Extension capabilities to collaborate and build our networks in one place by providing one place to easily share information and discuss topics of interest.
6. Facebook brings together several online tools. In addition to being able to share information and photos, you can add applications (some examples are: Twitter, Flickr, del.icio.us, your blog, news feeds) to your Facebook home.
7. Facebook is mobile. Having facebook on your phone keeps you up-to-date with statuses, posts, and discussions. This feature, like many others, is optional.
8. After you get a feel for the layout and what is where in Facebook, using Facebook is easy. If you don't know how to do something, ask a teenager.
So what is the downside of social tools, like Facebook and MySpace? Sharing too much information could become a problem so share only what you are comfortable with sharing. Remember, you can control what you share.
Some say that social networking wastes time. It can be, but it does not have to be. And, it does not have to be perceived as a time-waster. Facebook allows us to learn from each other and build relationships with each other which takes time. If you are working on building relationships locally or maintaining relationships locally, you must take time to do that. You talk with folks and you have coffee or lunch with them. You maintain those relationships by continuing to talk with, catch up on news about them, check on them, etc.
Facebook is an online activity that will take some time. In doing so, we will learn about each other, learn from each other, discuss issues and methodologies, and challenge each other.