Like many social media platforms, Facebook is a valuable resource for its millions of users. However, the online landscape is also a minefield of potential risks that must be conscientiously navigated.
Users of all ages are susceptible to the advantages and disadvantages of Facebook, but seniors who are less familiar with social media may find themselves disproportionately on the receiving end of mishaps and mistakes. The trick is not to be intimidated by Facebook but to learn the best ways to use it – and just as importantly, how not to use it.
Facebook Instructions for Seniors
As you increase your use of Facebook or any social media platform, it’s important to familiarize yourself with best practices that can optimize your experience while simultaneously making it safer and more secure. If you keep yourself educated and aware, you can use the technology to your advantage without falling prey to its various pitfalls.
Facebook for Seniors: Things to Avoid
1. Putting Your Privacy at Risk
Facebook is, first and foremost, a social networking service and its very purpose is giving you an online presence. While that is helpful for staying in touch with your loved ones or making new friends, it also means much of the information you post or generate when using Facebook is available to both the public and to the Facebook Corporation. While there is nothing you can do ensure total privacy of your data, you can take measures so it only reaches your intended audience.
From your account on Facebook, select the privacy icon on the homepage and click on the Privacy Checkup drop-down option to be guided through your current privacy settings and make any updates you would like. As social media privacy settings change frequently, it’s good to check your privacy settings every month or so to see how your information could be affected.
2. Avoid Spam and Scams
Malicious actors use every form of technology to scam others or steal their information, and that includes Facebook. Spam is often spread by clicking on bad links or accidentally installing malicious software or downloading a bad file, which means it is important to be careful about what you click on. If you run across spam on Facebook, you can report it. Facebook also provides the following tips for reviewing your account and removing spam:
- Check your login history for suspicious logins
- Check your Activity Log and delete any unwanted actions
- Check your installed apps and games and delete anything you don't trust
- Delete any photos, posts, pages, groups or events you didn't create
Facebook scams, on the other hand, generally entail people creating fake accounts or hacking into existing accounts to trick other users into giving them personal information or money. You can usually detect scams if the person is asking you to send money to receive something in return. Poor spelling and grammatical errors are often indicators of scam messages or posts, as well.
If you receive a message from a friend’s account but it seems uncharacteristic or odd, don’t respond, as it’s likely their account was hacked. Instead, contact them through a different medium to find out if they actually sent the message. Although you may occasionally struggle with loneliness in a retirement community, it's important to reject "friend requests" from people you don't know.
3. Don’t Share Your Current Location
It’s fun to post about your current activities on Facebook. However, using geolocation tags in your posts also provides information regarding your whereabouts that can be used by online contacts and strangers in a negative way. For example, posting photos while on vacation demonstrates that you’re not home, information that can be used by criminals to target your residence. Wait until you are back home to post photos or statuses about an out-of-town trip and don’t share your location manually.
4. Limit Interacting With Ads
Advertisements are an inevitable component of social media, because they are how companies like Facebook make a significant profit. By clicking on ads, however, you provide information that Facebook can collect and potentially sell to outside entities. You can manage your ad preferences to influence which ads you are exposed to, although you cannot change the overall quantity of ads you see. If you don’t want Facebook to use information based on your activity on websites or apps off Facebook, you can opt out from your settings.
5. Beware of Fake News
Fake news has become an increasingly troublesome problem over the past few years. Facebook users will share articles or other content from unverified and disreputable sources without first checking to see if the information is true. This behavior spreads misinformation that is detrimental to communities and society as a whole. Before clicking on or opening a piece of content shared by someone – even a friend or family member – check the source, and don't believe everything you see or read.
Facebook for Seniors: Things to Do
Despite the risks fostered in online communities, they also possess distinctly valuable possibilities. Here are a few ways you can use Facebook in a safe way that enhances your social life:
1. Connect with Friends and Family
The best part of Facebook is staying in touch with friends and family, especially if they live in different town than your retirement community. Through Facebook, you can see what they’re up to, look at their photos, and leave them comments and messages. While nothing can replace in-person interaction, online communication helps abate loneliness by giving you contact to the people who matter to you. It also keeps you abreast of birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, and other life events.
2. Find Local Events
Although your retirement community may offer a plethora of activities and events, it can also be enjoyable to attend ones off campus. Companies, organizations and individuals can create and share pages about their local events. You can browse the ones in your area through the Events page on Facebook and see which ones are open to the public. Some event pages event have options for signing up or reserving a spot. If you know the event you want to go to but need details, you can look it up by typing the name into the Search box at the top of your Profile Page.
3. Research Businesses
Facebook has become an integral part of doing business for organizations in every industry, which works to your advantage. Via Facebook, you can find ample business information, including a company’s contact information and operating hours. If you’re unfamiliar with a business, you can use Facebook to research its history, services and products, past accomplishments, and more. Current and former customers also leave reviews on Facebook with information you can use when choosing the businesses you want to work with.
4. Find Local and National News
While you want to avoid the fake new epidemic, Facebook is a good resource for connecting to the news sources you trust and follow. Even local media companies, including newspapers and radio stations, have Facebook pages where they post breaking news, feature stories and other content. You can stay up to date with local, state, national, and international news by “Liking” and “Following” reputable news sources.
Using Facebook: Best Practices for Seniors
The value of Facebook for older adults in retirement communities is significant. When used correctly, the social networking service can be an effective tool for plugging into a community and staying in touch with loved ones. To avoid the associated risks of Facebook and other social media platforms, be a conscientious user, stay up to date on evolving privacy and security issues, and use the technology sparingly.
You may also be interested in:
“Facebook for Seniors.” SeniorAdvisor.com blog. Accessed online at https://www.senioradvisor.com/blog/2014/10/top-three-facebook-hacks-every-senior-needs-to-know/
“Avoid Spam and Scams.” Facebook Help Page. Accessed online at https://www.facebook.com/help/1584206335211143/?helpref=hc_fnav
“Should you share your location on social media?” Equifax blog post. Accessed online at https://www.equifax.co.uk/resources/identity_protection/should-you-share-your-location-on-social-media.html