The picture is just a little Blurry right? Just like Facebook to some folks. As I get older, some things look blurry for a bit until they finally come into focus. When I started blogging I was in my 40’s and I knew very little about what I was doing, but I picked it up rather quickly because I saw the Communication value in using blogs. Then Facebook came along when I was approaching 50 and again I recognized the Communication value.

Maybe you’ve jumped on the Facebook wagon and it’s still a little blurry to you. And just when you think you’ve got it figured out, they change things up, take some things away or add some new thing you have to learn, like the recent Timeline view of your page. It goes without saying that most young folks can roll with all the changes and ins and outs of Facebook. They were born with with remotes and joysticks and smartphones in their crib.

But what about the rest of us? I go back to the rotary phone, the computer that took up an entire room somewhere in New York, not under my desk, the telegram, no ATM’s, no smartphones, no dumbphones, and if my parents had any say, no use of the home phone. In fact, I can’t remember a phone in our home when I was a kid. I’m sure we had one, I’ll check with mom on that, but it didn’t really matter much. Take a seat in the mall today, watch 50 or a 100 people go buy and you’re sure to see many of them talking on their smartphone or texting, or even doing some savvy shopping using different apps to help them compare prices.

Many people are Connected by all these devices. They enjoy the connectivity. They profit by it. They are comforted by it. It just works for them. But some are left out or left behind, either by choice or by the digital learning gap. If you don’t care to take part in the whole thing, that’s a fine thing and your choice, no complaints here. But if you really want to and just seem to have a tough time picking it all up and mastering it, then I have a few tips.

Facebook is a visual and written gallery for events in your life. You can hang pictures on the wall and leave notes on the bulletin board, send mail and leave pithy statements about your life and the other people in your circle of friends. You can plan your events and consult with others, you can collaborate and talk with each other or chat, both written and video. You can make new friends, find old ones, get acquainted with people you barely know and come to really know people you never knew.

It is a powerful tool for walking into rooms all over the world that you never would have access to. All it takes to participate is curiosity and confidence. Curiosity leads to experimentation and experiments lead to failures and successes and this leads to confidence and mastery. In other words, jump around by clicking on everything and see what happens. If something bad happens, don’t do that again. If something good happens, make a note of it. If you want a quick class, watch your grand kids or sit with them and get them to tell you about Facebook or pick up one of those books for Seniors at the bookstore, like Facebook for Dummies. Yea, I won’t buy them either, but I take a sneak peak in them when I drop by the bookstore. No one has to know you consult them and we all know you are not a Dummy. Maybe the grand kid route is better for you. Most of the younger generation is all over the Connection thing and can Facebook in their sleep. Why not pick up some coaching from them?

All right then, so a strategy for gaining confidence in Facebook and how to use it is taking shape here. Remember a couple of things. What you write or say or display is now sitting on a server somewhere and most likely you can never get it back. If you say something inappropriate or offensive, it will be out there and you may come to regret it at some point. Our mother’s advice is well taken here, If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. It might be tempting to let it all out for folks to see your frustration with a company or a person or a president or whatever. I suggest you leave that to others. Start with a plan to use Facebook to communicate good things about good people and good times and good places. Some old time Facebook users will strongly disagree with this, but this advice will help you in the long run. If you’ve got something unpleasant to deal with or something you don’t like or someone who needs your council, it is still better to do that in person, over the phone or face to face. Facebook might seem like a natural outlet for those things but it truly leaves a lot to be desired for that type of communication. Paul’s advice in Col. 4:6 may be our best guide, Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

Now open up Facebook and look around, make new friends by checking your current friends friends.  Maybe you want to know more about them and they look interesting. Ask them to friend you up. Don’t be too bashful about looking for friends. If you are concerned that you don’t want them to know too much about you, you can set your privacy settings so they can only see what you want them to see. Otherwise, finding friends is at the center of a good experience with Facebook. Take a look at the recommended friends for you and see if anyone on that list is interesting to you.

Now watch your friends and their posts or comments. Some of them will be about self and a lack of sleep and a good restaurant they ate at and so on. That’s good. That’s life and some folks like to share their life like that. Maybe that’s not you though, so keep watching till you find something more interesting. Let’s say you’re into quilting and one of your friends is a master quilter. Is there such a thing? She posts or he posts something about a quilting workshop next week. You want in. Leave a comment, ask a question, or strike up a conversation, or simply hit the like button to indicate you approve.

Now you’re on your way, making friends and joining the discussion. The next step can be creating conversations. You can do this by posting something in your status. You can type in your own comments or link to someone else. Linking is a fast way of making connections and you will want to figure this linking thing out. All you have to do is to copy the address bar at the top of your browser that shows the interesting webpage or article you are reading, and then drop that into your status bar and then Facebook will throw up a ready made link and usually a picture to go along with it. You can leave the link or clean it away and replace it with your comments if you like. Then click the button to complete it or hit return and up it goes on to your Facebook page. If you don’t like the way it looks, you can delete it.

There are quite a few things left that you can do with Facebook, but those three things are a great start. Make friends, watch how they post and what they post about and use links, join in the conversations and start your own brand of talk.

Are there problems or things you should know about when you use Facebook or other internet sites? There certainly are. Will you make mistakes? I’m sure you will. I can give a lengthy list of things not to do with Facebook but it will only serve to discourage you. My approach is to try it out and if you don’t like it, opt out. But if you can see it as a tool to increase your circle of friends, then I recommend it highly. If you are really concerned about it’s downside, give me a call, we can talk the old fashioned way.

I can’t say if Jesus were alive on earth if He would be on Facebook. It’s kind of a weird idea to me. But He’s not on Facebook right now, at least I haven’t seen Him. But that doesn’t mean He wants us to ignore it and not take advantage of it. So many of my church members use it to communicate what’s going on in their lives and their church that I can’t afford to ignore it. I would miss a lot of what is happening with them and I would miss out on chances to minister to them and care for them. In fact, it is not well understood yet, but a pastor who is not competent in Facebook usage will likely miss out on a lot of things going on in the congregation and decrease his or her effectiveness.

Facebook is really just beginning to make a difference in our lives. It is still a little blurry perhaps, but it will clear up. It is only a decade old or so and we are just beginning to get used to what it is capable of. I hope you will learn how to use it profitably for yourself, your family, your church and to glorify God.