Computer screen with Facebook loaded

What is Facebook?

Facebook – understanding the jargon

These days many people assume that we all use the internet and know all the jargon and technical terms. We recently shared this guide from the Bristol Support Hub but we have heard from some people that they don’t really know what Facebook is. In this article we will explain more about what it is, how it works and some of the related jargon.

What is Facebook?

Facebook has been operating since 2004 and is one of the largest social media companies in the world. It now has over 2 billion people using it and is considered one of the most powerful and influential platforms. But what does it do and why do people use it?

In America, originally a “facebook” was a directory of photographs and basic details for all students within a university. Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg as a website version of this that also allowed students to connect and communicate with each other. While there are now lots of bells and whistles these days, the principle of connecting people and allowing them to communicate remains at the core of Facebook.

How does it work?

When you first join Facebook your “profile” is created through which you can share details (if you want to!) about where you live and what your interests are. This profile is what people see when they are looking for you on Facebook.

Every time you visit Facebook, you are invited to write “what’s on your mind” by typing in a sentence that you want to share on the site. These sentences are generally known as “posts” and they can be anything you want them to be. They could be funny, sad or thoughtful and are often accompanied by a photo or video.


Once you have written your status and posted it on Facebook, people can see this and can choose to comment on it. I might share a photograph of myself, my favourite food or my cat and you can decide if you want to write a comment such as “what a handsome cat” or “I don’t like that food”.


Facebook is based on the relationships between you and people you know on the site. One of the first things that you should do when you join Facebook is find people you know. There is space at the top of the page where you can type people’s names and see if they are on Facebook. Once you have found the people you want then you can ask them to be ‘your friend’ on Facebook. When you become friends you will start to see information about what each of you is doing on your newsfeed.


This is the page that people see when they visit your profile. The timeline displays a record of what statuses or posts that you have shared on Facebook. People can choose to leave a comment on your timeline. You often see this when it is someone’s birthday and people want to send greetings. This used to be called your “wall” and many people will still refer to it as that.


Newsfeed is the main page of Facebook when you login and it gives you a curated list of the activity of your friends on Facebook. This might be a post, a photo or it could include changes they have made to their profile details. It also includes adverts placed in your newsfeed by Facebook (which is how Facebook is funded).

Privacy Settings

Over the years there have been many concerns about privacy on Facebook. The privacy settings allow you to choose who sees what. You can choose for only people you know to see your profile or you can leave it public so that everyone can see it. When you are writing a status or post, then you can also choose who sees this. You might want to just publish a post that your friends can see but the public cannot.

Other Features

Over time Facebook has added other features to its offer which help people to better communicate with people with shared interests.

“Messenger” is a way of privately chatting with friends and family through Facebook.

“Marketplace” is a classifieds type section of Facebook that allows you to sell items to people nearby.

“Groups” allows you to create a small community on Facebook for you to chat and share information with the other members. You can choose to set up a group for any reason with common ones being around specific sports teams, television shows or hobbies. Many of the Mutual Aid groups set up to support communities during coronavirus have been set up as groups on Facebook.

“Events” allows users to set up invitations for parties and events in real life. You might invite friends to your birthday party, a pub quiz or a BBQ!

With over 2 billion users globally, Facebook allows you to easily connect with people all over the world and this is one of the reasons it has become so popular.