A Pretty Short Explanation of How Facebook Works

Occasionally, certain people will tell me they don’t understand how Facebook works. Well certain people, this article is for you.

If you know someone who could use a very basic introduction to Facebook, direct them here pronto.

The Basics

Facebook is, firstly, a network of people. You join the site, and become one of hundreds of millions of other people in Facebook’s massive database. Then, you connect with friends who are already on the site. You send them a friend request, and they confirm you as a friend, or vice versa. This process is repeated over and over, and soon enough you’ll have dozens or even hundreds of confirmed friends on Facebook.

You can do stuff on Facebook. You can upload a photo, post a link, or record a status update such as “writing a blog post about facebook”. There are, in fact, something like 10 zillion things you can do on Facebook, these are just some basic examples. Facebook records what you do, and publishes this information to your confirmed friends.

When you log onto Facebook, the first thing you’ll see is the News Feed. This is a continually updated stream of all the things your confirmed friends are doing on Facebook. Generally speaking, you’ll see more recent developments at the top of the News Feed and older posts further down, however Facebook’s algorithm tends to push stories to the top of the News Feed that it thinks you will find interesting.

There’s other stuff you can do on Facebook. You can send someone a message, either privately or publicly. Private mails can be sent using Facebook’s messages function. Public messages can be posted by visiting a friend’s profile page and posting something there — for example if you’d like to wish someone happy birthday publicly. You can find someone’s email or phone number, if they’ve posted it to Facebook, by visiting their Info page. You can look at someone’s photos, by visiting their Photos page.

That’s the general idea. There are lots of bells and whistles in Facebook, but that’s the bedrock concept.


What’s the point of logging into Facebook? It’s a quick way to see what your friends are up to. You simply log onto Facebook and you are presented with an assortment of updates from your friends.

What the point of posting things on Facebook? It’s a way to keep your Facebook friends up to date on what’s going on in your life. It’s like one of those Christmas letters, except it’s continuously updated.

What’s the point of commenting on other peoples’ posts / clicking “Like”? Your friends will be notified about your comment and they will be happy that someone has taken an interest in their post. Also, Facebook’s algorithm takes the number of comments into consideration when determining if something is interesting, so by commenting / liking something, you are helping promote it.

How come everyone else seems to hear about stuff via Facebook but I never get alerted? You have to actually log into Facebook to see what people are posting. Facebook is like a bar — you can only hear the conversation if you visit the bar.

Ok, so why do I get emails from Facebook sometimes? By default, Facebook will send you emails when certain things occur. For example, you might get an email if somebody sends you a message within Facebook, or if they send you a friend request. All of these email notifications are optional. You can update your preferences in the Account Settings section, under the Notification tab.

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What other questions do you have? What questions do you get from friends and family that should be added to the FAQ? Email me and let me know.

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