GF library helps users navigate popular social network siteA computer class Thursday night at the Grand Forks Public Library attracted a small crowd of curious, graying patrons, but not all were prepared to join Facebook’s self-proclaimed effort to “make the world more open and connected.”
By: By Lisa Gulya, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
A computer class Thursday night at the Grand Forks Public Library attracted a small crowd of curious, graying patrons, but not all were prepared to join Facebook’s self-proclaimed effort to “make the world more open and connected.”
Class attendees gathered in the computer lab after walking past a smattering of teens and adults. Once in the lab, they looked at Facebook profiles, pictures and pages on the library’s computers. The students followed along with reference aide Tonya Palmer, who displayed her own Facebook page to demonstrate various tasks: creating a profile, finding “friends” and blocking unwanted attention.
Palmer wanted to teach students how to use Facebook while still protecting their privacy, she said. By omitting personal information, such as hometowns and birth years, Palmer explained, new users could connect with family, friends and former classmates without offering themselves up to identity thieves.
“I call it grandma’s party line,” said a retired railroad worker who did not want his name used, likening Facebook to the early 20th century practice of several homes sharing a single phone line. Party lines gave people little protection against eavesdropping neighbors; writing on a friend’s Facebook “wall” can instantly broadcast a message to hundreds of people.
The man attended the class — though he wasn’t ready to create his own profile — because he wanted to learn about the website his girlfriend visited regularly, he said. He has taken several free computer classes at the library, which reference supervisor Toni Vonasek said have been offered since September. Facebook classes started last month and typically attract patrons in their 40s and 50s, Vonasek said.
“The younger people seem to know all that stuff already,” she said.
Vonasek’s observation reflects a national trend. The Pew Research Center reported in August that while the use of social media websites such as Facebook is highest among those in their teens and 20s, its use among AARP-aged Internet users (50 and older) doubled from April 2009 to May 2010, from 22 percent to 42 percent.
Once the new library is built, said Wendy Wendt, the library’s director of administration, more computers will be available, allowing a single class to serve more patrons.
For glossary of Facebook terms, visit www.howdoifacebook.com/glossary.htm. To read Facebook’s own help page, go to www.facebook.com/help/.
Lisa Gulya is a reporter at
the Grand Forks Herald,
which is owned by Forum Communications Co.