NEGAUNEE - Lauren Flack had been on Facebook for some time, but after taking a class at the Negaunee Senior Citizens Center recently, she was even more excited to be part of the world's largest social networking site.
"I have had the (Facebook) account for about six months," Flack said. "It has been fun. I found some friends I haven't been in touch with for years. Technology is a wonderful thing these days."
For Flack and the other seniors taking the class, the instruction was a chance to either be introduced to Facebook or to fine-tune the page they already had started. The class was taught by Kristy Basolo, senior center coordinator, and Cindy Rourk, one of the center's secretaries.
Alice Mutkala and Ernie LaJoie, at the left, listen while Cindy Rourk, standing, shows Lauren Flack something about Facebook during a class at the Negaunee Senior Citizens Center. Rourk, who is a secretary at the center, helped to teach seniors about the popular social networking site. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
"I asked the high school kids (who volunteer at the center) how they would explain Facebook," Basolo said. "They at first said they weren't sure, then one of them said to it's like a post office. You get mail, which on Facebook is a message, and you can send mail. If you go to the post office, you can talk to any friends who are there, so that's like a Facebook chat session. And each person has a mailbox, which on Facebook is their profile page."
Basolo told the seniors that anyone can have a Facebook account.
"You need access to a computer. You need access to the Internet, whether at home or at maybe the library," she said. "And you need a valid e-mail address. It's a free service, too."
In preparing for the Facebook lesson, Basolo did some research.
"My research told me people 50 and older are the fastest growing population on Facebook," she said. "Seniors use Facebook to keep track of what's going on with their grandchildren, to find classmates they've lost touch with, to share photos...
"A lot of times, a person might want to pick up the phone to talk to a friend, but that's inconvenient," Basolo said. "Facebook is a way to keep in touch that's convenient for both parties."
Basolo said some seniors have expressed concern that Facebook would mean "there's too much information on me" online.
"But with Facebook, you control what you put on your page," she said. "And you control who can see it."
If a person is looking to find old friends or former colleagues, Facebook has become a valuable tool to do so.
"On your Facebook page, you can put your past jobs, the schools you went to and what years," Basolo said. "You have all kinds of ways you can list info to help people find you. And again, you can do as much or as little with it as you choose."
She explained that once a person establishes his or her own page, he or she can then search for people to "friend." Once two people are "friends" they have access to one another's Facebook profiles.
In addition to individual pages for people, many businesses and organizations have Facebook pages, Basolo explained. She directed them to the senior center's own page (www.facebook.com/pages/Negaunee-Senior-Citizens-Center).
"Let's post on the senior center's wall," she said to the class members. Using the personal laptops and netbooks brought in by senior center employees, each class member took a turn updating the center's Facebook status. A status is a way for a Facebook user to communicate with their friends about what's happening in his/her life.
Basolo explained to the class attendees about Facebook's features, such as being able to "like" a business or organization or responding to an event invitation.
Basolo and Rourk offered individual advice to seniors as they worked their way through establishing their accounts or tweaking the accounts they already have.
For Flack, it was changing how her name appears on her profile.
"My nickname is Lolly," she said. "Can I get that as part of how my name is listed? Some people don't know me by my real first name."
With just a few clicks of the computer mouse, Basolo made that happen.
Ernie LaJoie took part in the class so he could learn more about Facebook, which he had been using for a number of months.
"I like everything about Facebook," LaJoie said. "I haven't really looked for anybody but some people have found me. I bring up my grandkids' pages to see what they're doing and my son, Jim, has new sayings on it every day.
"It's a lot of fun."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.