Frank Sinatra was cool. Mysterious people who don’t reveal much are cool. Celebrities who refuse media interviews are cool. And today — who’s left? How can you keep your cool in the “era of all revealed”?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a friend is “a person whom you like and enjoy being with.”

Friends? Facebook has destroyed the definition of this word. For too many, the definition of the word “friend” has been dumbed-down to “any human being with whom we communicate.”

A friend is not a person who you’ve clicked like and enjoy spending virtual time with.

You may not believe it, but there are real people who skip social media. They don’t live in caves in a country ending with the suffix “stan,” they are mature adults living normal lives. Social networks can be a lot of fun and useful. There’s nothing wrong with spending some time exploring common interests with virtual friends. Some time.

Finding balance is the name of the game. You can learn a lot of cool things from real and virtual friends on social networks. Or you can waste years of your life in shallow relationships that go nowhere. Social networks are like high school — there’s no award for being the “big man on campus.” Eventually, most active Facebook users will cut their online time for important things like family and career. Like your high school glory days, your Facebook stardom won’t matter.

Your Facebook Profile

Why does it take twice as long to fill out a new Facebook profile than it does to request a new passport? Because the US government doesn’t ask what your favorite TV shows are. You don’t need to fill out every last pedantic question.

What are your favorite sports teams?

Who are your favorite athletes?

When did you start high school?

What is your address?

Yes, Facebook really asks for your address. Don’t dare post it to your Facebook profile. Add a few non-personal hobby items to your Facebook profile; music, TV, sports, travel. Don’t go too far. Facebook lets you add every book that you’ve ever read; you don’t need to type in the name of all 2,452 of them.

Facebook Privacy Settings

Unfortunately, Facebook updates the privacy settings 2 – 3 times a year. This makes it difficult to maintain a privacy-balanced profile. Here are a few tips that will work no matter what the current privacy interface looks like:

Disable wall posts. A wall post allows friends to post public messages for all to see. After one out-of-place post from a Facebook friend that you’ve never met, you’ll learn your lesson. If someone wants to communicate with you, force them to send you a private message.

Don’t dare add your birthday to Facebook. If you do, Facebook will announce it to the entire world, starting a few days before via “upcoming birthdays.” Then, on your birthday, you will receive over 100 cheesy greetings. By the time you leave your house in the morning, half of the population of Kansas, Missouri and Delaware will know what day you were born. If you don’t disable your public wall posts, you will wake up on your birthday to find it more cluttered than an overcrowded garbage dump. It’s nice to receive birthday greetings from friends; but creepy from strangers.

Limit who sees what. Facebook allows you to limit who sees your posts. In this case, there’s nothing wrong with putting public — anything you post to friends can eventually find it’s way to the rest of the world. What you should limit are photos. You can limit them to be seen only by friends.

Limit who can post to your timeline. This is where Facebook gets confusing. What’s the difference between posting to your timeline and your wall? It doesn’t matter — by the time you read this, Facebook will have redefined it 5 times over.

Block your stalkers. Facebook allows you to block people. Just add their name or email, and you will never be contacted by them again.

Block invites. If a Facebook friend keeps inviting you to try apps that you just aren’t interested in, you can block them from ever inviting you to anything. The same goes for friends who create events and invite you. Some people create self-promotional events and invite everyone they know and don’t know.

  • Notifications — Turn off email notifications! You do not want to get endless notifications from Facebook.
  • Commenting on your posts — Facebook allows you to limit who can comment on your posts. Nobody, everybody or “friends of friends.” If you limit your Facebook posting, this doesn’t matter, but you may want to set it to “friends of friends” as a middle ground. You can always delete an unwanted comment on any of your posts!
  • App settings — Change “visibility of app” to “only me” for every app and (hopefully) Facebook won’t publicize every app that you use.

Finally, don’t login to other websites using your Facebook profile. It’s tempting when you have to create a new user account on yet another website to use your existing Facebook login. The quid pro quo here is that you’re handing over private information. Privacy for ease of use. Do this sparingly; better to create 50 new profiles than to divulge your Facebook profile to companies that you’ll forget about two weeks later.