Facebook is probably the first name that springs to mind when you think of social media. In fact, it’s so popular that you almost certainly know a lot of people who already use it.
By signing up to Facebook you can keep in touch with friends and family and share pictures, games, jokes and much more. It's a way for grandparents to find out what their grandchildren are up to, while also being a great way to reconnect with forgotten friends and distant family members. If you haven't already dipped your toe in the water, now's a great time to get started.
1. Sign up
Go to www.facebook.com and enter your name, email address and a password. You'll also be asked to give your date of birth and gender: this ensures that very young children don’t sign up, and it can help other people find you, based on your age. Click Sign up and you'll be sent an email with a link in it to confirm your account.
2. Find friends
You don't have to do this straight away but Facebook isn't much fun without anyone to connect to. If you have an Outlook (Hotmail) or Yahoo! email address, enter it here and click Find friends. You'll need to sign into your account and then Facebook will check to see if anyone in your address book is already signed up: if they are, you can add them to your friend list.
3. Fill out your profile
Your profile helps people find out who you are and what you like to do. Start by entering your high school and college – if applicable – then enter your current town or city, and your hometown, if different. Click Save and continue. Facebook might now suggest some potential friends. If you know any of these, click Add friend. Alternatively you can skip this step.
4. Your profile picture
From the page of interests, click Like below any you'd like to hear from. These include celebrities, news organisations and musicians who will turn up in your news feed. Click Save and continue. You can now add a photo. If you have a webcam , you can quickly take a shot, otherwise choose Upload a photo and browse your PC for a pic you want to use. This will be used for your profile. Click Save and continue.
5. Find more friends
You've now completed the main sign-up procedure. Don't forget to check your email to confirm your Facebook membership. You can now add more friends: click Find friends from the list of options on the left-hand side of the page. You'll see a list of people you may know, as well as anyone who has sent a friend request, and you can choose to accept or ignore any of these.
6. Friend request
In the search bar, type in the name of someone you know. You'll see a list of suggestions of people on Facebook with that name. Click one of these to see a limited profile. If you know the person, you can ask to be his or her friend by clicking Add friend. This sends a friend request, and if the person accepts, you'll be able to share news, pictures and other items with them.
7. Your news feed
Click Home to return to your home page. In the middle of the page there is a list of updates from your friends, along with the news feeds and other items that you chose when you signed up. Scroll down to see more posts, and click the down arrow to the top right of a post to see a menu. Choose I don't want to see this for any post that doesn't interest you. Alternatively, choose Follow post to see every update to a particular post. At the top of your news feed, click Sort to choose whether to sort by most recent or by top stories.
8. Liking posts
If you find a post entertaining, informative or you simply want to see more like it, you can click the Like button. You'll find it to the bottom left of the post. Once clicked, it lets the user who posted it, and Facebook itself, know that you liked it. Next to the like button is a comment link. Click this and enter a comment if you want to add to the post. Press Enter to send it. You've now joined the conversation and may find yourself ‘talking’ with anyone else who has also joined it.
9. Sharing posts
Your friends may not see all your posts. If you come across something that you want to share with them, click Share. You'll find it next to Like and Comment, at the bottom left of the post. You can then choose how you want to share it, by using the dropdown list. This can include sharing it on your own timeline, on a friend's timeline, in a group or in a private message. If necessary, enter the people you want to share it with, write a brief message, then click Share link.
Click Home and click in the box marked What's on your mind? under Status. Enter an update that you'd like to appear on your timeline. To add a picture to your post, click the camera icon to the bottom left of the message. Browse to the picture you want to use, select it and click Open. Click Post to submit your update. By default this will be public, unless you change the people it goes to.
11. Protecting your privacy
You may not always want to share your posts with the whole world. Before you click Post, click the dropdown list to the left to select who it goes to. This may be Friends only, just you or a custom set of people. Privacy on Facebook is quite a big topic and there are many ways to limit who can see your posts and photos. See our guide to protecting your privacy for more information on how to restrict who sees your posts.
12. Viewing your own timeline
To see yourself as other people on Facebook do, click your name in the top right of the page. This displays your profile. Click Timeline and scroll down to see your most recent posts: these appear in order, with the most recent post first. As your timeline grows, other people will begin to find you and start talking to you, tagging you (mentioning you in a post so it appears in your news feed) and sharing stuff with you. Before you know it, Facebook will really become a social experience.