Q: Can I Take Down or Change My Facebook 'Year in Review' Holiday Card?

A: You can definitely change the photo and text content displayed in your Facebook Year In Review Card. As background, for those of you who use Facebook to stay in touch with the people in your lives, you may have noticed that 'holiday albums' containing photos from the past year for each of your friends have been appearing in your Newsfeed. Generally, those holiday albums have been a fun recap of significant events during the past year.  

You may also notice that Facebook has 'prepopulated' your very own card with photos, because that card will appear every few days in your Newsfeed, or when you finish viewing a friend's card, the very last window will say "See some of the moments you shared with friends this year", along with a blue colored bar that says "View Now".

If you tap or click the blue bar, it will launch the Facebook software app that creates a customized album that you can then share with your friends. If you don't want to view your own card, you can simply click the white 'X' that appears on the top left of your friend's final card page and you'll be returned to your Newsfeed.

If you do proceed with viewing your card, through algorithm programming, Facebook prepopulates your holiday album with photos from your timeline, or photos in which you may have been tagged. As explained in our Seniors' Love-Hate Relationship with Social Media blog post, sometimes these photos may not be appropriate in the festive holiday album setting, with its happy balloons or colorful confetti. The photo images might be of loved ones that passed away this year, or tragic events like a house fire. 

Facebook's Year In Review help center  

For those of you who don't wish to post a Year In Review card, simply be careful to never click the gray "Share" button that appears either on the top right hand corner of your card, or the blue "Share" button on the bottom right of the last page when you scroll to the end of your cord.

Alternatively, if you do wish to post a card after making customized changes, then you should scroll to the bottom of your card and click the white "Customize" button on the bottom left.  The app will then show you colorful 'theme' options that will create the decorations and frames of your various card pages, and you can change the prepopulated Highlights Cover Photo to another photo in your Facebook Photos section, or you can upload new photo files from your computer hard drive or mobile device's camera directory.

As you scroll down, you'll be presented with additional chronological sections where you can write narratives about various events, and change the photos shown, or upload new ones. You can also add sections to commemorate other special events that you'd like to share (but that Facebook didn't prepopulate).

Finally, if you are seeing a friend's album in your Newsfeed that you'd prefer not to see, you can click or tap the small gray triangle that appears on the top right of the post and select "I don't want to see this". You can also do this for your 'own' card which might appear periodically in your Newsfeed, even though you haven't changed or shared it with anyone.

We hope that this article will help you customize your Facebook holiday viewing experience.

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Q: Is Twitter Something That I Might Be Interested In?

A: In my experience, a lot of seniors haven’t embraced technology, but nevertheless they’ve resigned themselves to receiving and sending text messages. They realize that their children and other family members find it convenient and non-disruptive, unlike a phone call while one is driving in traffic. It’s a short quick way to keep in touch or pass on information, without having to log into email or retrieve voicemails, and always handy since texts appear on one’s mobile phone.

I think of Twitter as the global text messaging system of social media. Twitter has been a publicly traded company since late 2013. You’ve probably seen their brand logo with the cute blue bird. There are currently 280 million Twitter users, sending 500 million ‘Tweet’ messages worldwide daily. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters, so messages are brief.

You can read public tweets on the Twitter website, but in order to send tweets, you’ll need to create an account and choose a username which will be preceded by the @ symbol (for example, @johndoe). During the setup process, you’ll also install the Twitter app on your mobile device, from which you can send/receive/view tweets.  

Like Facebook, you will decide which individuals and organizations you wish to ‘follow’, and after a while, other people will become your ‘followers’. You will see the tweets of the people you follow in your Twitter Timeline (similar to the Facebook News Feed), and when you send tweets, your followers will see them. You can also ‘retweet’ public tweets that you find interesting (like Facebook’s sharing) or ‘favorite’ (aka like) tweets, and you can send ‘directed tweets’ to specific Twitter users.

Now, why would you want to become involved with messages to and from total strangers? Well, in the case of celebrities, following one is like choosing to be part of his or her audience. Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates seem to be prolific daily tweeters, Apple’s Tim Cook not so much (only 105 tweets in a year). 

Some of these celebrities respond to directed tweets. If your favorite politician, scientist, journalist, you name it, are active Twitter users, wouldn’t it be interesting to be in the pipeline for their thoughts and comments?

As expected, companies use their Twitter accounts for marketing and making product announcements. However, businesses also ‘listen’ to the Twitterverse (aka Twittersphere). There have been cases of Twitter users complaining about a product or service on Twitter, and then being contacted by the retailer to resolve their issue, because corporations care about what is being said in the Twitter public forum.

Lastly, I use the Twitter Timeline for ‘breaking news’. Because tweets are short bursts and readily sent through a variety of platforms, they’re hard to suppress, even by governments. Thus, in countries where conventional news outlets can’t broadcast, tweets become an informal commentary on current events. Locally, we’ve viewed tweets providing hurricane news, or bad traffic conditions, in real time.

Despite the 140 character limitation, when users have a longer message to deliver, it can be easily done by including a shortened URL link. For example, when Bill Clinton comments on an event organized by his foundation, a link is included to an article on that activity, which you can further view for the ‘full story’ beyond the short tweet message. Photos can also be shown in your tweet. Note, however, that the link to a website or your photo file will ‘use up’ some of your 140 character allowance per tweet.

You can make your tweet’s topic searchable with ‘hashtags’, which are a phrase preceded by the # symbol. Anyone can then search for the #phrase and see many tweets about that particular topic. When one is in the mood for some light reading, you can also browse the ‘Trending Now’ topics.

Are you now curious enough about Twitter to try it?

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Q: Are There More Interesting Ways to Use Facebook?

A: Facebook has more than 1.3 billion monthly active users, so chances are that you are one of them. Perhaps some of you are casual users, occasionally posting, sharing, and checking to see what your friends and family might be up to. Others may be more active, using their Timeline as a journal of activities and a diary of thoughts and feelings, defining themselves for their friends.

Businesses can use their Facebook page as a way of marketing their services/products and giving their customers information about events, discounts, etc. Communities set up group pages to serve as a bulletin board. Organizations have pages to spearhead their causes, whether it’s shelter pet adoptions or fund raising events.

I’ve noticed that more recently, as I visit websites, I’m given the choice to log in using my Facebook account, in order to interact. Practically every site has social media buttons so that you can ‘share’ or ‘like’ content.

This means that all of your internet activities, interests, and likes are assimilated into Facebook’s algorithms. Facebook doesn’t care about you individually, but they do want everything about you to be registered in their database. 

This may sound alarming, but it’s no different from store loyalty cards. I don’t mind running all my Safeway purchases through their membership card, because the store uses that data to give me coupons for things that I’m interested in buying. Thus, the ‘deal’ that I have with Facebook is that I give it information that I am willing to share, and in return it gives me better directed content and targeted ads which I’m free to ignore.

These two screenshots give you an idea of how I personally like to use Facebook. Most functions are accessed through the control panel (#1). Using the search bar (#2), I can bring up Facebook pages relevant to what I’d like to do: If I want to see the store hours and sales for my favorite pet shop, I’d go to their Facebook page. If a hurricane is imminent, going to a local news outlet will give me ‘official’ information as well as postings from their audience. 

Normally, I'm careful about how many pages to 'like', because the more that you follow through liking, the more content will flow into your News Feed (#3). I’d rather go out and get the information that I want, rather than have an overwhelming stream pour in, especially since that puts Facebook in a position of figuring out what to show me in that News Feed, i.e. if there are 1,000 options, Facebook is only going to show 30 in my Feed. Your outside website ‘likes’ and ‘logins’ also impact what flows into your Feed. A good compromise is to 'like' the pages that you support, but realize that it's statistically impossible for Facebook to show you all posts, so visit the pages that you're interested in now and then, to catch up.

Another driving force of what comes into your Feed is the Groups that you are a member of (#4) and whether you’ve classified your ‘Friends’ into the Facebook categories of “Close Friends”, “Family” and “Acquaintances” (#5). Here, the suggestion is that you not take these categories literally. The postings by your “Close Friends” and “Family” will take priority over those from “Acquaintances”, so if you have a prolific aunt who posts ten times a day versus a casual co-worker who puts up insightful items that you always want to catch, you might consider classifying your aunt as an “Acquaintance” and your co-worker as a “Close Friend” even if that’s not the case in ‘real life’. 

Also, you can eliminate things you don’t want to see in your Feed by consistently clicking the drop down arrow on the top right corner of posts and choosing ‘I don’t want to see this’ or ‘Hide all’ from a particular poster. You can ‘Unfollow’ certain Friends without the potential drama of unfriending someone. After I did this type of filtering, I no longer see game play requests in my Feed, as an example.

With the moves that Facebook has made, it appears that they would like you to ‘live in’ their ecosystem; they’d like to get to a point where there’s no reason for you to ever leave their website or app. If you want to search for something, they’ll give you a search bar (powered by Bing), no need to go out to the Google website. You’ll see content from your ‘followers’ and vice versa, so why work with Twitter and their 140 character limitations. 

Instead of visiting blog and news sites, you can see all the ‘Trending Now’ topics right on your Facebook news feed. If instant messaging is what you desire, then they have an app for that too, along with all the gaming that you might want—Farmville was born on Facebook. There are Twitter and Pinterest 'apps for Facebook', so that your friends can view your Twitter or Pinterest posts once you've linked them to your Facebook account, without actually going out to those sites. 

Whether one 'goes along' with Facebook's vision or not is up to each individual. I do find it remarkable that no two News Feeds are exactly alike. Because of the data amassed by Facebook, the power of algorithms can provide you with a good content aggregator, as long as you take the time to ‘train’ Facebook to serve your personal interests. If you're an active Facebook user, I hope that you'll be able to customize your page a bit more after reading this article.

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