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believe your privacy settings to be, modern society is littered with Internet roadkill, like jobs lost, scholarships rescinded and relationships shattered simply because a user didn’t think twice before posting.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 the Girl -- Without Losing Your Friends

For most guys, the prospect of approaching a cute girl is too daunting to attempt alone. You need your buddies around you for a bit of support and a safe place to return to just in case, you know, it goes a bit sideways. But your pals may not be what you need when you’re trying to make a move. In fact, if the same girl catches the eye of one (or more) of your friends, it could make things rather messy. So what’s a guy to do?

Scratch Each Other’s Backs
According to dating expert and author Jay Cataldo, it pays to establish a “bro code” at the outset, before you go out with your pals. “True friends don’t compete for girls,” he says. “When I’m interested in a girl we’ve all just met, I will call ‘dibs’ on her and my friends will back off and support my gaming efforts. In other words, they’ll be good wingmen.” Needless to say, you need to do the same for them. (And you certainly don’t need an Excel spreadsheet, but try to be fair. If two of you call dibs simultaneously, the guy who hasn’t had a date in three months wins.)

Guys who take this approach can be a huge asset to one another, adds Adam LaDolce, dating expert and author of Being Alone Sucks! “You can boost each other’s value in the eyes of a woman. If your friend is taking the initiative, support him. Look at him when he’s talking, laugh at his jokes. Tell a story about how funny or awesome he is. Help him, and he’ll do the same for you next time.”

Play to Win (If You Must)
If there’s no way around a contest -- for instance, if you’re out with guys you don’t know that well (or guys who aren’t interested in a “bro code”) -- then Cataldo advises outgunning them. “Display as much alpha-ness as you can until she starts showing signs of attraction,” he says. “Talk louder than the other guys and try to control the conversational topic. Hold strong eye-contact with the girl when speaking directly to her, but glance around the room when she speaks to you. Give her friends more attention than her. And tease her in front of the group.”

This strategy can work (and a group of guys like this would probably just respect you if it did), but keep it as a last resort. Chances are the other guys won’t back down so easily, and most girls find it a turnoff when guys compete over them … meaning everyone loses. Besides, competing for the same girl runs counter to the “many fish” mentality. Cultivate this mindset and you’ll find yourself in a much better position than the guys swarming around the hottest girl in the room like sharks to chum.

Take the “Many Fish” Approach
“Once you realize there are many girls out there for you to meet, you won’t get so hung up on one,” explains LaDolce. “And the key to this is learning how to talk to several different women in an evening.” If that just doesn’t sound like you, try to make yourself do it anyway. Start with women you’re not that interested in; your confidence will grow naturally with repetition and experience, and by the time it comes to talking to a girl you’re attracted to, the pressure will be off just as you’re hitting your stride.

Then, right when she shows some interest, move on. “The best way to get a girl’s attention is to be the guy who’s bouncing around talking to other girls at the party,” says LaDolce. “Don’t worry if your friends are talking to her. Speak to five other nearby women. Believe me, she’ll notice you!”

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/MivPiv


What to Say to Women

Maybe your confidence fritzes out at girl-mingling time, or maybe you just say boorish, untrue things. Either way, you’ll need to learn how to talk the talk. Here’s what to say.

Hey, you! Yeah, you. Solitary man in the corner. With nobody to talk to. That’s right, we’re talking to you, hermit boy! It’s time to get over yourself and start getting over with the ladies. All it takes is a little self-confidence … and maybe losing the pleated Dockers.

First off, to connect with a lady, you have to actually make a freakin’ attempt. That means you need to relax, suck it up and channel your inner winner. Vernacular: Let people (we’re talking girls here, Romeo) know who you really are. So if you’re dusting off some killer dialogue like, “Do you sleep on your stomach … ’cause I’d sure like to,” they’ll know who you really are: a loser. Which you’re not! So read on.

Opening Lines
“The best opening line is a smile and a friendly hello,” says networking guru Susan Roane, whose books on the topic include How to Work a Room.

Interpretation: Guys often think they need to roll up to a lady like Jack Nicholson on Viagra. But unless you starred in Chinatown (or have Lakers courtside seats for that matter), lounge lizard lines sound pretty lame. And if your rap sounds like dialogue from A Night at the Roxbury, best to call it a night before leaving the house.

“Contrived opening lines come with inherent pitfalls,” says dating counselor Amy Owens, known as The Singles Coach on the Web and the author of The Itty Bitty Breakup Book. “If a man’s greeting appears contrived -- and most phony ones do -- the woman’s apt to think he’s trying way too hard. She may even wonder what he’s trying to prove.”

Owens advises guys to keep it simple and focused on the woman. “A good opening line is simply, ‘How’s your day going?’ Asked in a friendly manner, this question invites a woman to tell you what’s really going on with her. If she’s having a bad day, you’ll get an idea of her capacity and style for dealing with adversity. If she’s having a good day, you’ll know what makes her happy -- a question most men would love to have the answer for.”

Roane even suggests preparing a little five- to seven-second self-introduction script, custom-built for the event you’re attending. Example: “Hi, my name is Mike, and I’m a friend of the groom. How about you?”

Talk to Her
New York psychologist JoAnn Magdoff suggests tailoring your conversation to the woman. “Telling a girl she has beautiful eyes sounds a little bit too generic and a lot less believable than making a comment about a unique bracelet she’s wearing or the dress she picked out for the occasion,” she says. “This makes it sound like you’re actually interested in her … not just any woman.”

Engage Her (and You)
“If you’re at a ball game, ask her how long she’s been a fan,” Magdoff advises. “If you’re at a resort, ask her if the place has lived up to her expectations. Engage her in conversation that’s relevant to her -- and you. This way, you won’t have to search for crazy topics you have no expertise in.”

Stay True
Hear that, all you “movie producers,” “billionaires” and “astronauts?” Stick to stuff you know. “If you’re being fake, chances are a woman will see right through it,” says Magdoff. And while you’re at it, actually listen to what she has to say. If she’s hot, even her summation of today’s The View will sound profound. Trust us.

Show Interest
“Be genuinely interested in who she is and how she presents herself,” Magdoff adds. “Pay attention and you’ll pick up cues from her about what she wants to talk about. When you do, she’ll be more interested in hearing about you and your interests.”

Be Body-conscious
You can also connect with body language -- just make sure it ain’t foul language. “Don’t lean in too much,” Magdoff warns. “At least until her body language gives you the invitation.” Owens agrees, insisting you let the woman set the pace: “If she casually touches your arm after several comments back and forth, that signals that she trusts you and would be interested in getting to know you.”

So there they are, men, the keys to casual conversation with a woman. From the experts. Who all happen to be women. If these tips don’t work, well, maybe she’s just not that into you.

The Grudge Report

Ever hear that saying, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”? It’s harsh, but spot-on. Harboring resentment, no matter at whom it’s aimed, simply drains your own emotional reserves. “A lot of times a grudge is one-sided,” says Jordan Harbinger, a relationship expert and talk show host on SiriusXM radio. “The other person isn’t necessarily even thinking about the problem.”

The Damage
Even so, says Harbinger, a grudge can wreak havoc on relationships. Say you’re pissed at your girlfriend because she didn’t seem to appreciate the IKEA armoire you spent an entire day slaving over. You decide not to say anything. But when she comes home from the grocery store the next day without the item you asked her to buy, you flip. “She’s thinking, ‘My boyfriend is crazy! I buy rigatoni instead of ravioli, and now I’m sleeping on the couch! What’s going on here?’” says Harbinger. “You just cannot have a healthy relationship if you have a grudge.”

Furthermore, the poisonous effects of a grudge can often spread beyond the two people concerned. If, for instance, you’re not talking to one of your pals, your mutual friends are hardly going to feel inclined to invite both of you to the same dinner party. Says San Diego-based therapist Jeff Palitz: “If you choose to hold on to a grudge, those negative feelings stewing inside of you are bound to affect other relationships you have in your life.” In other words, by harboring a grudge, you end up alienating yourself. The same logic can be applied to families, where grudges can get to the point that no one even remembers what the original problem was, and relatives miss out on decades together without knowing why.

Moving on …
OK, so it’s clear that grudges cause a lot of damage. But getting over hurt feelings … easier said than done, right? And yet, says Palits, “Regardless of the circumstances, there comes a point where you have to decide: I either have to let this go, or I have to do something about it.” Choosing which path to take boils down to one thing: whether you want to maintain a relationship with the other person.

“If the idea of taking the high road is instinctively unappealing to you, maybe that’s a sign you’re not that invested in the relationship,” says Palitz. Just be sure to let the grudge go along with the relationship. To get the feelings out of your system, talk to your friends or family or write in a journal, and keep reminding yourself that holding a grudge against someone with whom you have no intention of resuming a relationship makes absolutely no sense. It will only hurt you, not them.

… Or making up
If, on the other hand, you care about the relationship too much to let it go, you’re going to have to confront the other person. But do so only after you’ve had time to cool down -- which could take 20 minutes or 20 days, depending on the situation. Before approaching the person, Palitz suggests writing a letter to him or her, whether or not you intend to deliver it. In the first draft, let out all the vile, nasty, name-calling things you want. Let it sit for several hours (or days), and then write an edited second draft. It will help you process your emotions and give you a dress rehearsal for talking to the person.

Once you’re ready to talk, be honest. Let’s say one of your friends applied for a job you’d told him about. Because you really wanted it -- and he ended up applying for and landing it -- you immediately stopped talking to him, despite his repeated tries to get in touch with you. Now you’ve got a great new job and you’re kind of missing the old ritual of watching the Patriots together every Sunday. How to break the silence? Pick up your phone and try starting off with: “Listen. It’s been a while since this happened. I don’t even know if you’re still thinking about it, but I want to get it off my chest.” Despite being shocked to hear your voice, he’ll most probably be relieved that you’ve called, and apologetic for what he did. Keep things short on the phone, but make a plan to meet up for the next game. “Guys are often willing to let things roll off their back, particularly with their male friends,” says Palitz. Odds are any awkwardness will be momentary and you’ll soon be rooting for the Pats together like old times.

Foto:@iStockphoto.com/gastonlacombe

Conquer Your Male Frenemies

I had a friend in high school -- let’s call him Dean. One-on-one, Dean and I had great times; we traded stories, shared adventures, confided in each other. But in a group, Dean changed. He would dismiss me offhandedly, make jokes at my expense, sometimes even physically shove me aside (not roughly, but still).

Looking back, I see now that Dean was a classic “frenemy” -- he wore the mask of a friend, but was really working against me. The term used to be confined to women, but as my frenemy Dean shows, the concept can apply equally well to men.

Signs of a Male Frenemy
Just as men and women behave differently, male frenemies act a little differently from the female variety. For example, says Chris Illuminati, co-author of A**hole.ol.o.gy: The Science Behind Getting Your Way -- And Getting Away With It, while female frenemies know that they’re screwing you over, men are more inclined to think that what they’re doing is no big deal. “Male frenemies are the guys who you just don't know where you stand with them,” says Illuminati. “One day they’re your best buddies, and the next they've done something to stab you in the back. It's usually over a girl but it can be extended to screwing you over in the workplace or with other friends.”

Indeed, hiding (or not even fully recognizing) their true nature is a key characteristic of the frenemy. Typically, points out Debbie Mandel, a relationship counselor and author of Addicted to Stress, a male frenemy is smooth, alert, and friendly face-to-face, but becomes subversive, undermining, and critical behind the scenes. “He can steal a guy’s woman for the fun of it ­-- to possess her because he can,” says Mandell. “He can undermine him in social gatherings with the guys by slinging the barbs or making fun of him… even betray a few confidences.”

Motives of the Male Frenemy
If you’ve been on the receiving end of such behavior, you’ve probably wondered: What could possibly motivate such blatant douchery? Why do frenemies act the way they do?

Illuminati thinks it all stems from jealousy. He theorizes that a frenemy probably genuinely likes you, but is jealous of some specific quality of yours that makes him want to see you fail. Mandel agrees, though adds that frenemies are unhappy with themselves and believe that by putting you down, it’s lifting them up.

Marc Rudov, the self-described “No-Nonsense Man” and Fox News commentator, has a different take altogether. He sees the male frenemy phenomenon as a symptom of a societal trend in which men are acting more and more like women. “A lot of this behavior is teenage girl behavior,” Rudov says. “Today’s guys are more like girls. There’s a whole wave of feminization of boys, and I think [frenemy behavior] is the result of that.”

Conquering the Male Frenemy
So how do you deal with a frenemy? It should be easy: De-friend him, just like you’d do on Facebook. That’s exactly what Rudov recommends. But what if your frenemy is part of a circle of friends? That’s clearly a more delicate situation, but there are still a few things you can do:

“Keep it light and superficial,” says Mandel. “There will be other guys to hang with in that circle, so concentrate on them.”

Illuminati takes it a step further; he suggests letting your other friends know that you don’t trust the frenemy. But be prepared. “You've got to have concrete examples of him being a douche,” he says.

Rudov’s advice is the simplest, and maybe best, of all: Rise above it. “If you have confidence in yourself, and you don’t worry about other guys, then you don’t really care.”

Photo Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Stockphoto4u