Computing for Beginners: A guide to Facebook (part 1)

By Colin Cartmell-Browne

FACEBOOK can be a really useful, entertaining, way to communicate with a wide range of people all over the world, but there are a few things to consider in order to protect your privacy.

What is Facebook?

Facebook works by connecting people. You set up a profile, add friends, make comments and share pictures for friends, and friends of friends, to comment on or ‘like’. There are special interest groups on Facebook and even companies you can interact with, such as Egremont 2Day at

Setting up an account
Figure 1: Sign up

Figure 1: Sign up

Setting up an account is easy. Just go to and fill in your name and email address and chose a password (see figure 1).

Facebook also asks you for your age. This is because, by American law, you have to be 13 or older to have a social media account. And as Facebook is an American company it is their law which applies to the use of their website.

Once you have filled in the form and clicked the sign up button, Facebook will ask you to confirm your email address. To do this just open your email and click the link which will take you back to Facebook.



Figure 2: Options to decide on

You will be given four options to complete your registration (see figure 2):

  1. Facebook will want to use your email address to go through your emails to find friends. Personally I skip this step, I would rather have more control over who I friend on Facebook, rather than anyone who happens to send me an email!
  2. Take a tour of the privacy settings. Of the four options this one is worth doing. Having a high privacy setting is a good idea – unless you want lots of emails or friend requests from people you don’t really know!
  3. Upload a profile picture. You can either choose one stored on your computer or use your computer’s inbuilt web cam (if it has one). A word of warning though – I’ve yet to see a decent picture taken on a laptop’s webcam!
  4.  Find friends by looking up their name. Type in a name and Facebook will come up with a list of suggestions. If, like me, your friend has a pretty unusual name then they are bound to be one of the options. However if the name is quite common then you might need to look carefully at the person’s profile, to ensure it really is someone you know rather than a complete stranger with the same name!

Once you’ve completed, or ignored, the four options, your Facebook account is good to go! Now you can start commenting, liking, finding friends and interacting as much as you like.

A few things to remember though:

  • Facebook will prompt you to put in your phone number. I never let it. Although Facebook claims only you will see your phone number and it will be used for account security, I’m not entirely sure I trust it.
  • Remember Facebook is a business. It aims to make money which could mean selling contact details to telesales people. I have no evidence for this, but would prefer not to take the risk.
Privacy settings
Figure 3: Decide on preferences

Figure 3: Decide on preferences

At the top right of the screen there is a little padlock and downwards arrow symbol. Clicking them brings up various options, including accessing privacy settings (under settings) and news preferences (see Figure 3). It is worth regularly reviewing these, as Facebook has a habit of changing the rules which then makes your account less private than you might think. I’ll go into privacy settings, etc., in more detail in next month’s column.


One of the things many people like about Facebook is the ability to join a group, particularly one which relates to a particular hobby or interest. You can search for a particular interest group and request to join. Make sure you read the rules of the group before requesting to join. Breaking these rules, no matter how unwillingly, will almost certainly get you removed from the group. Most groups have an admin person who ‘polices’ the group and makes sure the rules are followed. However, be aware of your own personal safety. There are many people who delight in causing trouble on public forums and, no matter how safe you might feel, there is no real privacy on social media. If you want it kept secret, don’t post it on Facebook!

It’s also worth remembering to be careful what you share on these groups and be aware of your own personal safety. If your child wants Facebook then perhaps you should insist that they add you as a friend, so you can monitor their conversations and posts.

Next month I will go into more detail on how to make sure your Facebook account is as private as you could want it.

In the meantime if you have any computing issues you want help with get in touch via,  or