With its wealth of information, the internet has made millions of social media users into ersatz detectives. Any mystery, dilemma, or question that anyone might have can be answered with a simple Google search. But with that allows users to Facebook search any person without logging in.
If you’re adept at email, you can reach out to anyone across the world to figure out the solution to just about anything. Another big way people take to mystery-solving online is through the practice of “Facebook stalking,” where you look up the profile of someone on Facebook to figure out more about them. You can Facebook stalk people that you already follow, or you can look up someone just to get a particular piece of information.
There’s also the possibility of looking people up on Facebook even if you yourself don’t have a Facebook account. Not having a Facebook account will make your Facebook stalking more difficult, but it is possible to Facebook search for people without logging in. This Digital Recourse to Facebook and Facebook searching will let you in on all you need to know about interacting with Facebook.
How Facebook Works
The name “Facebook” didn’t originate from the social networking site that has now made it famous. A facebook is a term that refers to a collection of pictures — hence, “face” book — of people. Imagine something close to a high school yearbook and you’re on the right track. In the case of Facebook, the name derives from creator Mark Zuckerberg’s experience at Harvard University, where he was a student before founding his now multi-billion dollar company. Harvard used facebooks at the time, which led Zuckerberg to come up with an idea for a facebook that has become so big that is not just a facebook, but the Facebook, one with over one billion users. (Facebook was originally called “The Facebook.”)
If you’re looking to use Facebook to figure out information about people without yourself having an account, you should know what kind of information you’re likely to find on Facebook. A typical Facebook profile will consist of the following:
- Profile Photo and Cover Photo: These two photos are likely to be the first things people see of someone’s Facebook profile when they look them up. The profile picture is supposed to be a picture of the person who owns the Facebook profile, and the cover photo can be anything the Facebook user feels would best frame their profile. The cover photo is a banner-length photo at the top of someone’s Facebook profile. They could use the cover space to post a piece of art they like, or perhaps a photo they feel proud of having taken. Note that there is no requirement that the profile or cover photo actually show the person whose profile they are on; if a Facebook user is feeling especially duplicitous, or perhaps silly, he can choose to upload misleading or irrelevant photos for his profile and cover pictures.
- Location: Facebook lets you specify where you are from and where you are currently living. You will also have the option to indicate past locations; these will appear below your current location.
- “Interested In”/Relationship Status: The phrase “Facebook official” has become one of the classic social media buzz-phrases. This refers to the fact that Facebook lets its users display their “relationship status” — single, in a relationship, engaged, married, etc — as well as the type of people they are interested in — men, women, both, etc. This makes Facebook a real furnace for the social media gossip mill; it wouldn’t be surprising if the majority of people looking to Facebook for information are looking for relationship details.
- Friends: If you have access to someone’s full Facebook page, you can also see who they are friends with; if you “friend” someone, you can also see what mutual friends you have.
- Likes: Facebook allows its users to “like” pages for a variety of things, including music, movies, television, books, public figures, and others.
Before getting into the next section, where we’ll talk about what you can do to search for people on Facebook even if you yourself don’t have a Facebook profile, we here at Digital Recourse have to make an important disclaimer: none of the information we are giving here about Facebook and how to search it is intended for illicit use. The “Facebook stalking” appellation suggests a creepier action than is necessarily the case; people will sometimes use “Facebook stalking” to mean “looking someone up on Facebook,” perhaps to connect with a long-lost friend or with a new friend. Like any other tool, Facebook can be used to good or bad ends, and it goes without saying that we here at Digital Recourse only encourage the kind of searching talked about in this article if you’re coming from a good place. “Facebook stalking” = okay; actual stalking = not so much.
How to Facebook Search Without a Profile
“If your iPad can do it better than you, then it is not a skill.”
Now, here an obvious question arises: “Why would you want to search someone on Facebook if you yourself don’t have an account on the website?” It’s a good question, in large part because there’s not much, if anything, one can do through Facebook with the information one would attain from searching someone’s Facebook profile.
If you don’t have a Facebook profile, here are some barriers you will come up against when trying to find someone through Facebook:
- You Might Not Be Able to View Their Profile: Suppose that, following a search Facebook turns up a profile that appears to be of the person you’re hoping to find. It could well happen that the person’s profile is set to private, meaning only those who have added that person as a friend on Facebook (which you can only do with a Facebook profile), can view any profile information. If this happens, all you’ll have found out is that the person you’re looking for might be on Facebook. People on Facebook are allowed to set their profile privacy to their heart’s content, which makes it easy to block out any potentially unsavory glances from unknown users on the web.
- You Might Not Be Able to Message Them: For quite awhile, you couldn’t message someone on Facebook if you didn’t have a Facebook account. Facebook and Facebook Messenger used to be inextricably linked. As of 2015, however, anyone can set up a Messenger account whether they have a Facebook account or not. That said, if you have a Messenger account but no Facebook account, what Facebook will usually do if you try to send a message to a Facebook user with whom you are not friends is filter the message into a type of spam folder, which could mean that the user will never see your message.
In short: if you’re trying to find someone on Facebook and actually do something useful with Facebook, just make a Facebook account, even if it’s bare-bones. It will make your searches easier and more productive.
With those clarifications out of the way, onto the main and fortunately simple easy matter of this section: how to look up someone on Facebook without having a Facebook profile yourself. While you may not be able to do much with the profile of the person you’re looking up once you find it, you still can say you found it. This is a problem with several different solutions, each of which are described below:
- Google It: It may be passé now, but there is still a lot of truth to the phrase “Google it.” Type in the name of the person you’re looking for into Google‘s search engine (or any search engine) followed by the word “Facebook.” If the name you’re looking for is common, you’ll have several Facebook profiles to search through, but you still can find who you’re looking for with this method.
- Facebook People Search: Facebook provides a “People Search” tool available to one and all, including those without Facebook profiles. You’ll find a link to it here.
- Facebook Directory: Important thing to keep in mind here: Facebook has over one billion users. The company does provide a usable directory (link here) of the site’s users, but attempting to circumnavigate so vast a catalogue makes the phrase “needle in a haystack” a kind of grand understatement. This is definitely not the first option you should go for, but if you’ve arrived at this as your last-ditch effort, you could find what you’re looking for.
What you’ll find in employing any one (or all) of the above options for finding people on Facebook without using a Facebook profile is that this kind of search isn’t impossible, but it’s making a Sisyphean task out of what could otherwise be a single, easy search that you do from a Facebook profile. Undoubtedly, there are lots of reasons to not want a Facebook account; that decision is best left up to individuals. But eschewing Facebook and then trying to use it to look people up is at the very least strange, and at worst counterproductive. If you’re an intrepid user of the internet you can find what you’re looking for, but don’t expect the easiest search.