If you're new to Facebook, there's a lot to learn, but don't let it stop you from jumping in with both feet. No matter what you may have heard, there's a lot to love about Facebook, and it's a great way to keep in touch with the people who matter to you.
With all that said, LOOK before you LEAP! It may take time for you to becoome a savvy user, but this handy list will let you know how to get started.
1. Add a profile picture! Find a relatively recent photo of yourself smiling and happy. While logged into Facebook, click on the faceless gray image, select "Edit Profile Picture" and follow the simple instructions.
2. Flesh out your profile. This gives Facebook more information about you so that it can present you with more options to enhance your overall experience. Be sure to include old schools you attended, and old (or current) clubs of which you've been a member. Add a few favorite books and musical artists.
3. Search for family members and friends you speak to often. Then, "Add" them as your friends. (Remember, don't feel insulted if they don't accept. This is just software, and lots of people have plenty of good reasons for the ways they manage their own Facebook accounts. You have that same privilege and aren't obligated to accept every friend request you receive!) With each person you add, more items will show up in your daily "News Feed". Remember, the whole point of Facebook is to keep up with all the new happenings in the lives of people who are important to you. The more friends you "Add", the more information you'll see and share.
4. Understand the difference between a post, a message, and a comment. A post is public to all your friends on your feed and, if they comment, all their feeds to all of *their* friends as well. If you post on someone's Wall or comment on anyone's post, all of their friends (and perhaps they're friends' friends) will see it. If you send a private message, that's just between you and your friend. Do not consider *anything* on Facebook to be private. If you want to have a private conversation with someone, consider email.
5. Start slowly! For example, post once a week but check your feed daily or as often as feels entertaining to you. More than anything else, this will give you an idea of the kinds of information people share on Facebook. If you'd like, you can modify your posts accordingly.
6. What should you post? How about pictures of fun places you've recently visited, or books you just finished reading? Post a summary of something you're excited about that you're involved with this week. Your friends want to see what you're doing right now, so give a snapshot of your world for them to view. You don't want to bore folks with what you had for breakfast, but if you saw a movie last weekend that you really enjoyed, tell folks about it. (Just don't spoil the ending!)
7. Keep it brief! The people following you want to know what you're doing, but they don't want to read an essay. Just post a line or two about what's going on, or what's on your mind.
8. While there are a number of security concerns when using social media like Facebook, some basic precautions will protect you for the most part. Don't respond to messages from people you don't know. Don't accept friend requests from people you don't know (even ones who claim to know *you*), even if they claim to be friends of people you DO know. And don't accept friend requests from people you wouldn't talk to on the phone or in real life. Why clutter up your software with people you don't like? You want this to be a fun experience!
9. Change your privacy settings. How? The blue bar across the top of the screen has an image that looks like a small cog on the far right. Click on it and select "Settings" from the drop-down menu. You'll get a new screen titled "General Account Settings", but if you look on the left side of the screen, you'll see an option titled "Privacy". Click on this, and make sure that only "Friends" can see your future posts in the "Who can see my stuff?" section. Don't make any other modifications until you understand the consequences.
10. Hide those things in your news feed that you don't want to read. Move your mouse cursor to the upper right hand corner of every post or ad, and a downward caret will appear. Click on it and select "I don't want to see this". If it's from friend, Facebook will ask you if you want to do this all the time, so use your best judgment, but for ads, it'll ask you why and then remove them. And remember, you can post about anything you want (within reason), but always know that other folks can hide you, too!
If you get stuck on any of these items, check out the built-in Facebook Help pages.
If you've made it this far, and implemented these suggestions, you're well on your way to becoming an experienced Facebook user, so congratulations! And welcome to the world of Facebook!