Michael Miller is the author of My Facebook for Seniors and many more bestselling books that you can find on Amazon.
Facebook is a great place to reconnect with people from your past. It can take a bit of detective work, but if the people you’re looking for are online, you can probably find them.
Searching Facebook for Friends
When you’re trying to find an old friend on Facebook, the easiest way to do it is to search for that person. Simply enter that person’s name into the Facebook search box and see what comes up. Depending on the popularity of that person’s name, you might find the person you’re searching for on your first attempt.
If the person you’re searching for is a woman, know that she may have changed last names when she got married. (Or divorced and remarried.) Some women have enough forethought to enter their maiden name as their middle name on Facebook, so the Sara Jones you used to know might be listed as Sara Jones Nelson, which means her maiden name actually shows up in a Facebook search. Other folks, however, don’t do this, so unless you know their married name, the search becomes more difficult.
You could try searching for that person’s first name only, and that might work. The reason why is that when you’re searching by name, Facebook returns a list of people with that name and puts at the top of the results list those people who have mutual friends in common with you. If your old friend has already made a connection with another one of your Facebook friends, she’ll pop up high in your search results.
This “mutual friends” ranking also helps if you’re looking for someone who has a very common name, like John Brown. That said, if the person you’re looking for has not made connections with any of your other Facebook friends, he’s likely to get lost in the large number of search results. The search is a little easier if the person has a less common name.
It helps to fine-tune your search by including other information about that person, such as where they live or grew up, where they went to school, or where they’ve worked. You do this after you’ve searched for the person’s name, from the search results page.
On a computer, click People in the left column and then select a filter. For example, if you turn on the Friends of Friends switch, you’ll only see people who are already friends with your Facebook friends. If you select City, you can choose to see people who live in any of the cities you’ve listed for yourself on Facebook. Same thing with Education (schools you’ve attended) and Work (companies you’ve worked for).
You can also find old friends by searching the friends of your friends. Click a friend’s name to go to that person’s Facebook profile page, then click to select the Friends tab. From there you can browse for search for people who are friends with this person. It’s a good way to find mutual friends.
Know, however, that you can only find people who are actually on Facebook. You can enter and filter as much information as you want, but if that person it’s a Facebook member, they won’t show up in your search results.
Connecting via Facebook Groups
Another good way to reconnect with old friends is via Facebook Groups. A Group is kind of like an online version of those homeroom clubs you had in high school, but open to members located anywhere in the world.
If you think an old friend is into a particular hobby, you can look for Groups focused on that topic and then search their membership lists. Even if you don’t find your friend in one of these Groups, you may still make new friends who share your same interests.
A better approach is to look for Groups related to your old school, neighborhood, or workplace. For example, I grew up on the west side of Indianapolis, Indiana, and now I belong to a Facebook Group called Growing Up on Indy’s Westside. It’s a fun little group, with people posting faded pictures of old haunts and lots of discussions about the way things used to be and what we used to do back then. I’ve found several old friends who are members of this Group.
It’s also likely that there’s at least one Facebook Group connected to your high school or college. My high school has a “Where is and/or who do you remember?” Facebook Group, full of posts from people looking to reconnect with old friends. If your old school has a Group like this on Facebook, join up and post about the person or persons you’re looking to reconnect with.
Your old school may have other Groups where your old classmates may congregate. I graduated high school in 1976 and while there’s no Group for my class, there is a “Class of 1975” Group on Facebook. I happen to know a lot of folks from that class and it’s been a good place to find their younger brothers or sisters who were in my class.
Where do you find these Groups? You can search Facebook for a particular school or neighborhood or workspace, and then filter the results to show just Groups. You can also find groups by clicking the Groups icon at the top of any Facebook page, select Discover in the left column, and then browse groups suggested for you, by category, and those of which your friends are members.
As an example of the thousands of groups on Facebook, below is a video that Facebook posted about the Swamp Hikers Group.
Going Beyond Facebook
Depending on the friend you’re looking for, there may be better resources than Facebook to search. For example, if you’re looking for someone you used to work with, LinkedIn might be a better choice.
If you know a particular person has a favorite hobby, you may be able to track that person down through topic-specific websites and message forums. Alumni sites such as Alumni.NET and Classmates are also good places to track down old schoolmates – and if your high school or college has an alumni page or website, check that out as well.