Facebook Phenomenon

Fresno, CA, USA The site was once a hangout for college kids, but now it's soaring in popularity with many who are grey or soon will be.

"Bianca is from Holland so I'm going to write to her."

Marianne Hackney is in the autumn of her life as she calls it. She is an empty nester who didn't really ever think of using her computer for a hobby. "Quite frankly I'm not much of a computer person. I'm kind of a novice at all this," said Marianne Hackney.

All the more reason, she was reluctant when her sister pressed her to get on Facebook. "I was a skeptic, we're very private people."

Plus, she thought the social networking site seemed more suited for her 20 something kids.

That is until she joined. Now she's hooked. "Sometimes somebody would say oh my gosh, I remember when we did this and this and you just oh, I can so remember that and I would love to forget that you know. You feel such a connection."

Women over 55 make up the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. The site that started with college students has evolved into a place for a more mature crowd as a way to not just connect, but also professionally network, fundraise and advertise.

To get the most out of Facebook, knowing the lingo and how it works is key. For example, a wall to wall chat is posting between two people but open to other friends to read. It's like being in a room full of people where anyone can overhear your conversation.

Lori Raygoza is the average age of most Facebookers, just over 30. She logged on close to a year ago. "I like the fact that you can get onto Facebook and check out photos and statuses without anyone knowing your on. You can do it at your own time whether it's 11 0' clock at night in bed and or during the office hours or at a stop light, no wait, not a stop light."

Fresno State Professor Doctor Tamyra Pierce studies social networking sites. Since Facebook is free, she said it's a great, inexpensive way to catch up, especially if doing it in person isn't possible. "With the economical times, a lot of people aren't flying and so it does make it just more convenient to talk with others using the technology."

Research shows high school reunion attendance nationwide is up, thanks to Facebook. The theory is that the site has made reunion planning easier and reconnected friends who want to catch up in person.

Of the few users who leave networks like Facebook, there are some who find it annoying to know too much about other people or they get irritated by the instant messaging. Others just get tired of the maintenance involved with keeping their profile current. "As soon as friends and family realize that you've got a Facebook site they're constantly contacting you, but it does take a little bit of time to be involved with this," said Professor Pierce.

There is unwritten etiquette. Things to think about when you're on Facebook, like whether it's appropriate to post things old photos of high school sweethearts or request to be friends with your boss. "I can share as much as I want to share or as little as I want to share and that's what's cool about it," said Lori Raygoza.

It's become a popular and efficient way to make plans with people, share pictures and even sayings.

Lori used Facebook last Christmas to not only reunite with high school friends, but also give back to the community where she was raised. "We did blankets. Non-sew blankets here at the home and there was about 20 plus girls that I hadn't seen or heard from in quite some time so it was very nice."

Most agree the best part of Facebook is reminiscing and the feeling of being close at heart to people miles or continents away.


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