How to Use Facebook So It DoesnÂ’t Use You

Whether you call it a time-saver or a time-suck, Facebook has surpassed the almighty Google as the most trafficked website in the U.S. -- and the second most popular site in the world. Whatever you happen to think of it, if you’re not living in a cave in northern Pakistan (and maybe even if you are), you’re probably using it in some manner. Need someone’s contact info? Check. Birthday minders? Ditto. Photos and videos to share? Done and done. Random thoughts to send into the ether? Well, you know the drill.

But as quickly as Facebook has become an integral part of the way we communicate with friends (and “friends”), it has also raised concerns. How much sharing is too much sharing? What do Facebook and its marketing partners really know about you? And what are they doing with all of that juicy data? Men’s Life Today reached out to David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World, for tips on getting the best out of Facebook while avoiding its potential dark side.

Don’t Be Daft
For starters, says Kirkpatrick, if there’s something with the potential to embarrass, don’t post it. Despite how secure you believe your privacy settings to be, modern society is littered with Internet roadkill, like jobs lost, scholarships rescinded and relationships shattered simply because a user didn’t think twice before posting. “This is a shockingly common-sense rule that many people disregard,” says Kirkpatrick. But don’t go too far in the opposite direction, he advises. “If you never post anything of interest, you’re less likely to have anything of interest come back to you.”

Friendly Fire
If your standards for accepting friends have been, shall we say, less than discerning, Kirkpatrick suggests it could be time to do some pruning. “One of the classic errors is to accept every friend request you receive,” he says. The problem with such loose standards? “You’re empowering these individuals over your information.”

It may also be time to shed people you do know, but who don’t reflect your sensibility or values (see “jobs lost,” above). “If you’re beginning to question their judgment, hide them from your news feed or unfriend them entirely.” If we were to discard all but those whom we consider true-blue buddies, says Kirkpatrick, many of us would wind up eliminating three-quarters of our so-called friends.

App Happy
Here’s a little heads-up: Third-party apps gain access to your personal information when you install them. (And yes, “Mafia Wars” and “Farmville” fans, that includes you.) So be picky. “Something that looks cool, but which I’ve never heard of and that only a couple of my friends are using? I’m not going to adopt it,” Kirkpatrick says flatly. If you already have an app installed but haven’t used it in a while, delete it. Why? Because even if you’re not doing anything with it, chances are its developers are still doing something with your data.

Fortunately, right before you install any app, Facebook will remind you that you’re about to hand over access to your info. The choice to “allow” is up to you. Pretty simple.

Privacy Protection
Although he concedes that navigating Facebook’s privacy settings can be like trying to solve a Chinese puzzle, Kirkpatrick says an investment of 45 minutes should be enough to establish settings you’re comfortable with. For advice on how to get started, he recommends the site AllFacebook.com. (Search for “privacy settings.”)

To be on the safe side, a good across-the-board option is “friends only.” If you have a burning desire to make your life an open book for exes, frenemies and strangers, go ahead and use “everyone.” If you’re particularly guarded about your information, there’s a custom setting called “only me” -- though if you choose this option, you might just want to delete your Facebook account altogether and go back to calling your friends on a landline. Tedious, yes, but no privacy worries!

Target: You
And what about those ads in the margin that seem to know a little too much about you? They don’t concern Kirkpatrick terribly. If Facebook is doing its job and serving ads that jibe with your interests, you might welcome seeing some of them. And if you don’t, “they’re easy to disregard,” Kirkpatrick points out, explaining that one of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s core tenets is that advertising should not disrupt the user experience.

Despite articles like this one, Kirkpatrick knows that many of you will continue to throw caution to the wind. “Facebook is loosening inhibitions about self-display,” he acknowledges, “and we’re becoming a more transparent people.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing, he adds, but if you’re going to share, just be sure you do it wisely -- or be ready for your loony-tunes ex, nosy co-worker and the rest of the world to know your business.

Getting Ahead in Hard Times

Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success is showing up. But he’s old. And he doesn’t have to sit in a cubicle every day with the threat of layoffs hanging over his head like a dim fluorescent bulb.

Success during The Great Recession means you need to boost your performance, outshine your co-workers, and more important, let your bosses know what kind of butt you’re kicking without looking like you’re kissing theirs. Here’s some advice from real job experts -- not some crotchety moviemaker -- on how to get it done.

1. Jump ahead a few years
Our economy will never return to the good ol’ days -- and, most likely, neither will your company’s boom times. To survive long-term, you’ll need to think about how your industry is likely to evolve and the ways you can stay ahead of the curve as it does. “You should be setting yourself up now for what your job will be like a few years from now,” says Penelope Trunk, CEO of the employment advice Web site BrazenCareerist. “This doesn’t mean working harder; it means setting personal goals for growth and getting on the right projects for the right experience -- so the right people notice you.”

2. Don’t be a jerk
A startling number of folks at the office have been sent to the unemployment line recently, and your responsibilities seem like they’ve doubled. The urge to let your boss know exactly how hard you’re working -- to get a little credit and to just vent -- is almost too great to resist. Resist anyway and be an enthusiastic team player now more than ever. If you need to complain, do it to your girlfriend, not your co-workers. “You’d be hard-pressed to find an annoying person in the office who’s not getting laid off right now,” says Trunk. “Being kind and gracious, exchanging information and ideas, reaching out to people -- if you do these things, you’ll do better in your career.”

3. Know exactly what doing a good job means
These days, the corporate bean counters are quick to cut any worker who’s not operating at 100 percent efficiency -- and your opinion of what’s efficient may be completely different than your boss’s. Career coach Marie G. McIntyre, author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics, uses the example of an old client: a quality assurance manager who was so obsessed with perfection on the assembly line that he disrupted production. “He thought he was a high performer,” she says. “Management thought he was an obstacle. You never want to be seen as an obstacle or hard to manage. That’s an absolute career killer.” Ask your boss for occasional feedback, whether you like it or not, and even set up a quick monthly meeting to ensure you’re both on the same page. You shouldn’t need an annual review -- or a pink slip -- to discover your flaws.

4. Self-promote without sucking up
You’re not just another anonymous entry on a “clean out your desk” list if the company bigwigs know you and what a great job you’re doing. The trick is standing out without sucking up. “People can tell if you’re insincere,” says McIntyre, “but you need to do something to get out of that cloak of invisibility.” Find ways to strike up conversations with the bigwigs under casual circumstances -- like maybe in the lunch line or the elevator, or at the company softball game. Over time, drop subtle information that modestly tells them what you’re working on and shows that you’re well-plugged into the job. Adds McIntyre: “You shouldn’t have an agenda with every conversation, but you do need to manage relationships to achieve your goals.”

The Workplace Workout

Experts agree the best time to exercise is midmorning or midday, when testosterone and general energy levels peak. But if you’re like most of us, that’s smack in the middle of your workday. So, do you relegate your workouts to sub-peak hours? Quit your job and go freelance so you can control your schedule? Not necessary, says Tom Seabourne, tae kwon do champion, TV host and author of 16 books. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Quick Total Body Workouts, is based on an appealing premise: You can work out every part of your body right at your desk.

“Everyone can find a few minutes a few times a day to get a quick full-body workout,” argues Seabourne. “You’ve got to get your blood pumping and get out of your seat.” By focusing on fast-twitch, Type IIB muscle fibers, Seabourne’s program will “increase your anaerobic and aerobic power, get your blood flowing, burn additional calories and help to energize your day,” he says. That’s not a bad set of outcomes, but perhaps an even more compelling argument for workplace workouts is the slate of recent studies showing that sitting for long periods of time can wreak havoc on your health -- even if you exercise regularly before or after work.

Below are 12 exercises that together will give you a total body workout, whether you have your own office or sit in a cubicle. Admittedly, a few of them may raise some eyebrows, depending on your office culture, but many can be done without anyone being the wiser. And even if your co-workers snicker at first, when they see the results -- both on your body and in your level of productivity -- they’ll be lining up at your desk for tips.

1. Swap out your core-killing office chair for a Swiss ball. Even better, if you have the means and your boss is laid back about such things, attach your computer to an exercise bike.

2. Pace back and forth while on the phone. If you have your own office, get a long cord and use the extent of it. If you’re in a cube and pacing would bother your co-workers, then march in place.

3. Do 45-degree planks on your desk while reading. First, bend your arms at a 90-degree angle and place your forearms on your desk. Then step backwards to form a plank from your shoulders to your ankles. Contract your core and hold for 30 seconds.

4. Drop a pencil and do some push-ups -- a couple of max sets (go to fatigue, generally 10 to 25 reps) a day, two to three times a week. Notice how quickly you’re able to increase your reps.

5. Do some dips in your chair before sitting down. With your heels on the ground, hands on the chair arms, and both legs straight and pointed away from you, lower yourself to the chair by bending your arms until your elbows reach a 90-degree angle. Then push back up for five to 15 reps. (If you’ve already swapped your chair for a Swiss ball, sit on the edge of your desk with a straight back, curl your hands around that same edge and place your calves on the ball, legs straight. Slide your butt away from the desk so your hips can descend toward the ground. That’s your starting position for the dip.)

6. Do squats while on a conference call. Keep doing them until you begin to lose your form or the call ends. Or until you start to talk funny.

7. Press your heels into the floor while typing. This easy and discreet move trains your quads, glutes and hams isometrically.

8. Pump your arms as fast as you can, like you’re sprinting. Go for 15 seconds, adding two seconds a week until you can do a full-minute arm-sprint.

9. Place a ball between your knees and squeeze. Do three sets of 10, and hold for three seconds per rep.

10. Do heel raises at the water cooler/fountain. Fifteen reps twice a day will work your calf muscles.

11. Do two-arm biceps curls while staring at your computer screen. Leave two (cheap) dumbbells at work and do two sets of 10 reps every other day. Bring heavier weights to the office as you get stronger.

12. Similarly, do dumbbell shoulder presses in front of your computer. Start with two sets of 10 reps and increase the weight as you get stronger.

Starting a Business in a Tough Economy

Whether you’re unemployed, underemployed, fearful of a layoff or just bored with your job, at some point you’ve probably thought about starting your own business. And like most people, you’ve probably been held back by a host of concerns: whether your idea is good enough, how to get funding, whether you can live without vacation and medical benefits, whether you even have the chops. Now, there’s one more worry to add to the mix: whether it’s crazy to start a business in the wake of a recession.

Here’s the good news. First, all entrepreneurs face those same fears on the road to building a company. Second, many Fortune 500 corporations, including Procter & Gamble, IBM, General Motors and FedEx, were founded during a period of economic uncertainty. “If you launch your business during a difficult time, you know what you can do on a lean basis,” says James King, state director of New York’s Small Business Development Center. Then once the economy starts to bounce back, he says, you’ll be well-positioned to succeed.

We asked King and Rex Hammock, founder of SmallBusiness.com and CEO of the custom media and marketing firm Hammock Inc. -- based in Nashville, Tenn. -- what it really takes to stop working for the man and become your own boss.

Tip No. 1: Seek input.

For starters, you should run your business concept past a few impartial observers before pouring your whole self into it. “Family and friends are not going to give you an honest answer,” says King. And even if it is a great idea, you must remain open to the possibility that your better mousetrap simply might not catch on. If that turns out to be the case, adds King, be prepared to adjust and compensate.

Tip No. 2: Check yourself.
Feeling ready? Put yourself to the test. This online quiz, created by the Small Business Administration, will help you ascertain whether you truly have the drive, perseverance and skill set you’ll need to see your business succeed. Even if you don’t, the SBA offers tips on how to build those credentials. Take advantage of this advice before diving in.

Tip No. 3: Go it alone.
The simplest approach is a start-up with you as the sole employee. Says Hammock: “For consultants, contractors or freelancers, the opportunities are many. Companies are using contracted services to fill in gaps in their workforce.” Being an independent contractor often means you call your own shots and name your hours and fees. The downside is loss of vacation and medical benefits -- though there are ways around that. For medical coverage, seek out programs offered through industry member organizations or groups such as the Freelancers Union. You may have to forego vacations for a while, but once you have a solid client base, you should be able to afford a few weeks of unpaid leave.

Tip No. 4: Find financing.

Less simple, though not impossible, is the path for capital-intensive startups. Hammock warns that these are tough times for getting a loan. “Banks are requiring more personal guarantees and financial collateral than I’ve seen in my nearly 30 years of owning small businesses,” he says. But King claims it’s still doable. “The money is available,” he argues. “You just have to prove the case for it.”

How? Get your ducks in a row by putting together a solid business plan. If you’ve never written one and need direction, avail yourself of the largely free assistance of organizations such as the Small Business Development Center (or SBDC, which maintains help offices in every state in the U.S.). The better prepared you are, says King, the more likely it is that the major financial institutions will work with you.

Another prospective source of financing is credit unions, which picked up much of the small-business lending slack when big banks put on the brakes in the aftermath of the global financial meltdown. Depending on the amount of funding needed for your venture, you can also seek economic support from friends and family, from so-called angel investors or from venture capital firms.

Finally, King advises that you raise or borrow enough money to provide your fledgling company with adequate cushion funding. It may take you longer to turn a profit than you expect, and you don’t want to be left penniless mere months in.

Tip No. 5: Don’t super-size.
Once you’ve hung your shingle, avoid the temptation to grow too quickly. This is particularly true for companies that start making money sooner than expected. “Say you open a restaurant and it quickly becomes a hot spot,” posits King. Before you know it, you’re excitedly adding seating and staff. But chances are good that you’re merely experiencing a new-restaurant bump, and that customer traffic will soon come back down to earth. “If you misjudge that,” warns King, “it can be a disaster for your business.”

Tip No. 6: Beware of the competition.
When you do start to grow, competitors will likely appear where none existed before. “Someone else is going to try to replicate your success,” says King. He recommends going back to your business plan and adjusting it to respond to the new conditions. This will help you stay a step ahead of any changes that could affect your bottom line.

Tip No. 7: Focus on the right components.

The smaller you are, the more you’ll be building your new company’s reputation on the basis of two essential factors: quality and service. “Trying to compete in an arena where price is the only factor in your clients’ purchasing decisions is a train wreck waiting to happen,” says Hammock. “If you can help a customer or client be better at something they want to be better at, you’ve cracked the formula for long-term success.” In other words, make your clients look good, and you’ll look good too. And if that prospect doesn’t have you thinking about punching in your current job’s time card for the final time, nothing will.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/Zemdega

The Quitting Quiz

What are the telltale signs that the time has come to leave your job? Take this Men’s Life Today test for a definitive answer to an age-old question: Should you stay or should you go?

1) Every Monday morning, as you ponder the workweek ahead, you pull out your iPod and put one particular track on repeat. Its title is:
a) “The Lazy Song” (Bruno Mars)

b) “Just Can’t Get Enough” (Black Eyed Peas)

c) “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” (Katy Perry)

d) “Forget You” -- and not the clean version (Cee Lo Green)

2) When you get in late, your boss:

a) Doesn’t notice, because he never strolls in before noon anyway.

b) Asks if everything’s OK, since you’re usually the first one in the office.

c) Pulls you aside and tells you not to let it happen again.

d) Screams that the next time you’re tardy with his dry cleaning, there will be hell to pay.

3) Your workplace attire consists of:
a) Bed head, baggy shorts and a pair of turquoise flip flops.

b) A three-piece suit, wing tips and a freshly sharpened pencil on the ready, tucked behind your ear.

c) An Oxford shirt, khakis, and -- for rare occasions -- a Kevlar vest.

d) An airport gift that reads: “My Boss Went to Sheboygan and All He Got Me Was this Lousy T-shirt.”

4) At lunchtime, you:
a) Drive home for a nap, followed by a little Angry Birds action, followed by another nap.

b) Eat at your desk to save time. Gotta love multitasking!

c) Bring your PB&J into the conference room and complain to your work buds about the idiots in accounting.

d) Fashion voodoo dolls of the CEO using paper clips and a bubble mailer.

5) On Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, you:
a) Teach the boss’s kids how to make faces on the photocopier and fax the laugh-out-loud results to their teachers.

b) Put together a gripping PowerPoint presentation on how working hard in school truly gets you places!

c) Advise every youngster you see to put off the real world by getting an MBA.

d) Call in sick. Having to be nice to your colleagues is bad enough; being nice to their kids is beyond your pay grade.

6) A typical day’s assignment is:

a) Assignment? I’m not sure I’m following you.

b) There is no typical. Every project that lands on your desk is more refreshing and interesting than the last.

c) Not anything to write home about, but at least you’ve got good dental.

d) So ludicrous and incomprehensible you wonder whether a lobotomized monkey thought it up.

7) When it comes time for the annual company picnic, you:

a) Remind me again of the difference between my job and an actual picnic?

b) Whip up some of your Aunt Sassy’s ambrosia for everyone to savor.

c) Bribe your significant other to join you and promise you won’t make her stay for the whole thing.

d) You mean that was yesterday? Darn! Now why did I write it down for next week?

8) Upon returning to the office after a week away, you …

a) Fire up your computer so you can surf do some research using your favorite websites: Facebook, YouTube and, of course, Men’s Life Today .

b) Run to your cube, eager to rifle through the contents of your inbox.

c) Linger by the water cooler, sharing -- with anyone who will listen -- the tales of the traveler’s checks you lost in Colonial Williamsburg.

d) Have 17,543 emails to answer. Of those, you count 16,876 marked “URGENT.”

SCORING
Calculate your answers according to the values assigned to each:

a = 1 point

b = 2 points

c = 3 points

d = 4 points

If you scored a total of…

8 to 12: Are you seriously getting paid to do what you do? Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, dude. Ride this one all the way to retirement!

13 to 19: Congratulations you worker bee, you! Sounds like you’re in a job that you were born to inhabit!

20 to 26: Your current means of earning a living might not be as exhilarating as driving racecars, but it sure ain’t ditch-digging, either. Since you never can be too sure, though, might as well dust off the old resume … just in case.

27 to 32: Get thee to a recruiter without delay. This job is making you miserable.