Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Alisa Bowman.
I don’t know about you, but the moment I walk into a crowded room, my palms start to sweat. I search the room for a familiar face. Thoughts crowd my brain: What if I don’t know anyone? Who will I talk to? I don’t think these people like me! Why did I come here anyway? I’m such a dork! They’re all looking at me and thinking, “I can’t believe SHE came HERE.”
Once a wallflower, always a wallflower, right?
Not necessarily. Socially inept people like me have a much easier time being social on the Internet. We don’t have to wait for those pauses in a conversation that never seem to come at the right moment. We don’t get all hung up on body language and facial expressions because we can’t see them.
In real life, I have a handful of close friends. Virtually? I have hundreds. I met them on Facebook, on Twitter and on StumbleUpon. Here’s how you can meet friends in these places, too.
It’s MySpace for grownups. Think of it as a virtual bar or water cooler, a place where people gather to talk about mindless, completely unimportant things. It’s the best invention of the new millennium, short of the iPhone.
Why You Want to Be on Facebook
- It can improve your marriage, especially if you friend and marry your spouse. I learn more about my husband through his Facebook status updates than I do from face to face conversations.
- You can more easily stay connected with people. Most people change their phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses A LOT. Facebook follows people wherever they go so you will always be in touch.
- You’ll never forget a birthday again. Facebook keeps track of everyone’s birthday in your friendship network and reminds you of them ahead of time.
- You’ll get to know your friends, family and associates on a much deeper level. Based on their photos, links, notes, status updates, and comments, you’ll learn things about people that you would have never learned in real life.
- You can easily and quickly share the big events of your life: photos of your kid’s graduation, a description of your most recent vacation, an announcement of your job promotion, and so on. Who needs to write that dreaded yearly holiday letter ever again when there’s Facebook?
The Facebook Decoder
Friend = Someone you know on Facebook
Friending = When you send someone a message asking them to be your friend
Status Update = A short, witty piece of information about your life that might interest your friends, such as this one from me, ” My 4 year old tells me that FDR was our 32nd President. I had to Google to make sure it was true. She’s already smarter than me.”
Facebook application (app)= Any number of games or quizzes that your friends will send to you and want to play with you. For instance, one application called Lil Green Patch allows you to send virtual plants to your friends.
Wall= A virtual brick wall that your friends can write virtual graffiti on. Just like a real brick wall, every single one of your friends can see your virtual wall.
How to Find Friends
Search for them using the little box in the upper right corner (it has a magnifying glass next to it). Just type in their names to see if they are in Facebook. Consider friending:
- High school classmates
- College friends
- Past and present work friends
- Current and past real life friends
- Business associates
- Other virtual friends you’ve met elsewhere on the Internet
- Bloggers you read regularly
- Famous people. Most have Facebook pages and most will friend you back.
Once you have a few friends, pay attention to the “suggestions” box in the right column. It will suggest friends to you based on the friends who are already in your network.
What to Do on Facebook
- Write the occasional status update in the top box under the heading “what’s on your mind?” All of your friends can see this update.
- Comment on your friend’s updates, links and photos. You’ll see the comment button underneath these updates in your news stream. Keep in mind: everyone can see comments. They are not private.
- Chat with friends. You’ll see the word “chat” in the lower right hand corner of the page. If you click on it, it will tell you which friends are online at that moment. If you click on any one of them, the chat box will open and you can instant message each other. Your chats are private, just between you and the person you are chatting with.
- Post links to your favorite websites, such as sexymarriage.net.
- Direct message friends. From their profile page, you’ll see “Send XX a Message” under your friend’s photo. Click on that. This allows you to send a private message that the rest of your network cannot see.
Twitter is like nothing else. It’s weird. It’s odd. It’s addictive. It’s a way to meet and get to know thousands of people you would not otherwise ever meet or get to know.
Why You Want to Be on Twitter
- It gives you something to do at night when there is nothing on TV or when you have insomnia. There is always someone on Twitter no matter the time of day.
- It helps you meet and get to know people all over the world and of all different interests. You might not normally make friends with a computer programmer or a rodeo clown in real life, but you’ll probably do it on Twitter, and you’ll be happy you did. Thanks to Twitter, I’m friends with people in Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, India, Germany, and many other places.
- You’ll get connected to a community of people who are always willing to help you: by answering your questions, offering encouragement, and entertaining you.
Tweet = The 140 character (or fewer) message that you write in the “what are you doing?” box.
Followers = people who sign up to read your tweets.
RT= Retweet. It’s when you take someone else’s tweet and forward it to your network of followers. You can even Retweet posts from Simple Marriage. Simply use the handy button at the end of each post.
@ = What you put before someone’s Twitter handle to make sure they see your message. For instance, if you wanted me to see your tweet, you would put @alisabow just before the message.
How to Find Followers
In a word: wait. Be patient. They will come. They really will. Sign up for an account. Fully fill out your profile. Upload a photo of yourself. Send a few tweets. Then:
- Add your twitter handle to your email signature.
- Give your twitter handle virtual friends who are also on Twitter.
- Follow others. They will probably follow you back. To do this, click on the “find people” button at the top of your profile page. Once you are following a few people, pay attention to who they list on “Follow Fridays.” Follow those people, too.
- Sign up for Mr. Tweet. It will recommend people for you to follow.
What To Do On Twitter
Before I get to what you can do, let’s first talk about what you should not do. Do not spam people. Do not market to people. No one on Twitter wants your sales pitch. They want to get to know you better, but they don’t want to listen to your spiel.
- Post links to cool stuff you find on the web.
- Leave witty or personal updates about what’s going on in your life.
- Ask questions.
- Offer short pieces of advice or inspiration. For instance, I recently tweeted, “Believe in yourself, even if other people don’t. What do they know? They don’t know you like you do.”
Common Twitter Blunders
- When someone sends you a direct message (DM), it will appear in your email inbox. If you reply to this via email, it will not go back to the sender. It will get lost in cyberspace. To reply, you must log into your Twitter account and reply to the DM there.
- Twitter stores your @ messages in a folder to make things convenient. You’ll see it to the right by your handle. For instance, my folder says @alisabow. Check it ever so often. Once you are following a lot of people, you’ll miss @ messages unless you check this folder.
- Relax. You will never read all of the tweets in your stream. It’s impossible. Everyone else on Twitter knows this. That’s why some people send the same tweet a few times-they know that each tweet is read by some of their followers and not others. Resist the urge to constantly be on top of Twitter like you are on top of email. Allot a certain amount of time for Twitter every day and stick to it. Otherwise, you will become addicted and lose touch with your real life.
StumbleUpon is a social bookmarking site, similar to Digg.com, Reddit.com and many others. It allows you to maintain a library of your favorite websites, one that others can view and share. I like SU because it’s one of the few sites that contains a large repository of relationships and lifestyle pieces. Reddit and Digg tend to be populated by technical and news sites. The SU audience also tends to be more mature (older) than Reddit and Digg, and there are more women.
Why You Want to Be on SU
- You can research various topics of interest, ranging from news to photos to business to health to lifestyle to music.
- You can easily share your favorite websites with your friends.
- You can easily bookmark your favorite pages, so you can come back to them later whenever you are so inclined.
- You can help bloggers like Corey increase his traffic. When you thumb up and review one of his posts, SU will show that post to other stumblers, increasing Corey’s audience.
StumbleUpon Toolbar = Something you install on your web browser. You can download it for free from SU. It only works with Internet Explorer and Firefox. Don’t even think about trying to install it on Mac Safari. You need the toolbar to stumble sites. You cannot stumble without it.
Thumb’s Up = What you do when you like a site. Press the “I like it!” button on your toolbar. Note: if you don’t like a site, you can thumb it down.
Stumble! = How you discover new websites.
How to Find Friends
- Click on the “friends” tab on your toolbar (4th button from the left). You’ll see a “find a friend” area to the left. Type in the names of people you know to see if they are on SU.
- If you’ve stumbled onto a site you like, click on the reviews cloud on the toolbar (6th button from the left) to see who discovered that site. Consider friending that person. You can offer a gesture of friendship by clicking on their photo. That will take you to his or her profile. In the right hand column you’ll see “send friend request.” Make sure to say something about yourself in your message.
- Ask other virtual friends if they are on SU. Give them your SU handle so they can friend you.
- Friend me. I’m alisabow. I’ll friend you back whenever I remember to check my inbox.
What to do on SU
- Thumb’s up and review sites that you like. To leave a review, thumb up the site. If the “leave a review” box does not immediately open, then click on the little cloud on your toolbar (6th button from the left, immediately right of the “send to” button). This will show you the reviews other people have written. You’ll see a box that says, “What did you think about this page?” Fill that out and press the “add review” button. Every time you review a site, you give it an extra SU push.
- Discover new sites. Let’s say you enjoy health sites. Press your Stumble! button and SU will randomly show you health pages that have been submitted by other members. You can also click on any of the SU tabs (fun, lifestyle, sports, etc) to see thumbnails of the sites that are currently popular in that category.
Alisa Bowman is a recovering divorce daydreamer. When she’s not on Twitter (follow her @alisabow) and Facebook, she’s offering her irreverent blend of marriage advice and help at projecthappilyeverafter.com.