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Facebook 101: Do's and don'ts

| Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

If you're like most people, you visit Facebook a few times a day. You catch up on the latest gossip, “Like” cute baby or pet pictures and maybe post something. Facebook makes these things simple.

Facebook is so simple, in fact, that you might not know you're using it wrong. Here are three things you really need to stop doing on Facebook.

Confuse public and private conversations

There are a few ways to communicate on Facebook. One is to post a message on your Timeline for everyone to see.

Another is to post a message directly to a friend's Timeline. These are the posts that show up in your Timeline labeled “Jane Doe > John Doe.”

Far too many people think the second method is a private conversation. That isn't the case. Think of it like a public speaker onstage talking to one audience member instead of the entire audience. Everyone can still hear everything they're saying.

I've seen people who don't know this ask friends very personal questions. It can be embarrassing for everyone.

To send a private message, click the Messages link to the left of your news feed. Then click the New Message button.

You can also go to your friend's profile page and click the Message button near the top right of the page. Or, just pick up a phone.

Overshare

Social media sites like Facebook encourage you to post your thoughts, experiences, pictures, videos and whatever else you feel like. This can lead people to share things like what they had for breakfast. Detailed relationship woes are another favorite. How about the fact that you're out of town for a while? Thieves love that one.

But a recent study from the University of Birmingham found oversharing is more complex. It seems sharing too many photos — even if they're nice photos — can damage your real-life relationships and cost you friends.

Of course, “too many” is relative, but there are a few guidelines. If you like to post “selfies,” or shots featuring just you, dial it back to important events, like a new haircut.

Also, photos of you with certain friends tend to turn off your friends and family who weren't there. Photos of immediate family and significant others, however, seem to be OK.

Include too much information in photos

This is similar to oversharing, but carries more risk. Smartphones and some newer standalone cameras can embed GPS information into photos.

Anyone who knows how to read this can see where your photos were taken. That means they can find your house, kids' school or other important locations.

So before you upload a photo, make sure it's clean.

In Windows, you can right-click a photo and choose Properties. In the Details tab, click the “Remove Properties and Personal Information” button. Mac users, and Windows users who want to clean a bunch of photos at once, can use a program like XnView.

Another option is to use an app like PixelGarde to check photos before you post. Don't forget to check what's in the photos. For example, a picture that shows your house number or street name isn't smart to post. Pictures of valuables aren't great either.

Email Kim Komando at techcomments@usatoday.com.

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