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How to Find Old Friends—and Make New Ones

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Before you can make someone your Facebook friend, you have to find that person on Facebook. That isn't always easy, but as Michael Miller explains, if they have Facebook profiles you can probably find them.
This chapter is from the book

Facebook is all about connecting with friends. In fact, the connections you make on Facebook are officially called “friends.” You invite someone to be your friend; you add that person to your friends list; you manage your list of friends; and your News Feed displays the status updates of all your friends. Friends are part and parcel of the Facebook community.

Of course, before you can make someone your Facebook friend, you have to find that person on Facebook. That isn’t always as easy as you might think, especially when you’re looking for people you went to school with several decades ago. People move; women change their names when they get married (or divorced, or remarried, or some combination of the above); it’s just darned difficult to track down some folks. This doesn’t mean it can’t be done, however. And if they’re on Facebook, you can probably find them.

How Facebook Helps You Reconnect

When it comes to finding lost friends and family members, size is everything. That is, the more people there are in the community, the more likely it is that the person you’re looking for is there.

And when it comes to size, Facebook is the biggest online community out there. 750 million users make for a pretty big pond; it’s the one website that just about everybody signs onto, sooner or later.

The size of the Facebook community is both a good and a bad thing, of course. It’s good in that it’s so big that just about anyone you’re looking for is probably a member. It’s bad in that there are so many people to browse through that it’s difficult to find any one individual. The person you’re looking for is probably there, somewhere, if you only knew how to find him.

Fortunately, Facebook offers several tools for finding people on the site. First, Facebook can cross-tabulate your email and instant message contact lists with its own membership database, identifying your contacts who are also Facebook members. Second, you can search the site by name, although that can be somewhat frustrating when you’re searching for someone with a fairly common name (try looking for “John Brown”—or “Michael Miller,” for that matter). Finally, you can search for people by location (city or state), the school they went to, or the company they work or worked for; this is a good way to find former neighbors, classmates, or coworkers.

The end result is that you can create a Facebook network that consists of a fairly large number of people you used to know but haven’t necessarily been in contact with for a while.

Personally, I’ve used Facebook to connect with many old high school and college friends; some of whom I hadn’t talked to in more than twenty years. It took a bit of work, but after I made a few initial contacts, the others started to pour in. It’s a matter of working through the connections, literally finding friends of friends.

That is, someone you know might be friends with someone else you know; this is particularly common when you’re dealing with old school friends. After you connect with one friend, you can view their friends and find a lot of people you know in common. Knock down one domino, and they all start tumbling.

As a result, I now have more than 200 friends on Facebook, and I’m making more by the day. Some of these friends are newer—people I know in the publishing and marketing communities—but many are my old schoolmates. I can’t say they all look familiar, not after so many years (we all get older, don’t we?), but I remember them all. Or most of them, anyway; the old memory isn’t quite what it used to be.

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