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Deciphering Social Media


Remember when connecting to a person meant actually speaking or, heaven forbid, catching up in real life?! How times have changed! Now, by ‘connecting’ people often mean on social media – that huge, confusing digital realm that constantly seems to be getting in trouble in the media.

Sound overwhelming? Well below is a breakdown of the most popular social media platforms to help you connect with people, places, topics and products around you. If you want to explore any of them but don’t know where to start, speak to someone you trust – and remember to stay safe online!

Social media Facebook
In a nutshell:

This is the biggest social media platform (the name given to individual social media programs) ever, with over 2 billion users worldwide. It lets you set up a personal page and post (upload) pictures, articles and thoughts about your life, or anything else.

What’s to love:

  • Stay in touch with friends and family – and 2 billion other users
  • Easily share your photos

What’s not so great:

  • There is so much content you might not be interested in – like ads
  • Your details are shared with all advertisers

Social media YouTube
In a nutshell:

A video sharing platform, and the second largest social media platform ever, with over 1.3 billion users worldwide. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and almost 5 billion videos are watched every single day!

What’s to love:

  • You can find a video on almost any topic you can think of – instructions for most tasks, cooking tutorials, music, movies and endless funny videos
  • It’s easy to search and use, even without your own account

What’s not so great:

  • There is a mixture of video quality so it may take a few tries to find a high-definition video
  • You will need to sit through an advert before a video will play

Social media Instagram
In a nutshell:

With over 800 million users worldwide, Instagram is the most popular photo (it can also do videos) sharing social media platform. It allows you to share as many photos and videos you like with an audience of your choosing. You can also interact with friends, family and strangers with similar interests.

What’s to love:

  • Highly visual so it’s easy and interesting to browse
  • You can explore new hobbies, interests, cafes or stores through the search function

What’s not so great:

  • Shops use this platform heavily so you’ll see a lot of ads
  • Limited to photos or video content, so there’s no stories that go with the images

Social media Twitter
In a nutshell:

Share your thoughts on any topic with over 330 million users worldwide. With a restriction of 240 characters per post (called a ‘tweet’), Twitter is used to give a short update on your life, day, experiences or opinion.

What’s to love:

  • It’s very quick and easy to write and send a tweet
  • Small character restrictions means you have to get to the point quickly
  • You can follow the lives of almost any high profile person

What’s not so great:

  • Twitter moves quickly so you can lose track of a conversation
  • The character restriction means your message may be tough to get across

In a nutshell:

Over 180 million users worldwide use Snapchat to create and share a short video or photo that is then deleted within 24 hours. Snapchat is a popular social media to share instant videos of your day.

What’s to love:

  • Fun and quirky filters can be applied to photos and videos to make you look and sound different
  • It lets you try new things and share thoughts without them being permanently recorded, as with other platforms

What’s not so great:

  • Privacy settings are tough to monitor
  • You can only replay a video once

Social media Pinterest
In a nutshell:

Pinterest is another photo-sharing social media platform, with 150 million users. It lets you create multiple ‘boards’ on a certain topic where you can ‘pin’ any photo you like for quick reference or inspiration. Unlike Instagram it is more commonly used to share photos from brands, shops and other companies rather than personal images.

What’s to love:

  • There are countless new ideas to try and explore
  • You can create as many boards as you like and organise your pins accordingly

What’s not so great:

  • There are no chat functions as connecting with people is not the purpose
  • You don’t control what website the pin is linked to so it may send you to a different site than you expect

Connecting the world, or connecting the Western world?

Every one of the platforms we’ve listed here is blocked and banned in China due to “challenges to national sovereignty, security and development interest.” In their place are Chinese social media platforms, such as WeChat, which are heavily monitored and censored by the government.

Stay safe online.

Social media can be great fun but, as with all things online, there are a few rules to always be aware of:

  • Accounts can be hacked so always create complex passwords and don’t repeat passwords
  • Be a selective sharer: Limit the personal details you share and never share your credit card details
  • Review the Privacy settings on all platforms by following the Help guidelines
  • There are billions of users – not all of them have your best interests at heart, so be selective with you who connect with
  • If in doubt: Don’t click!

Read more of the articles from our Autumn edition of Thrive magazine here.