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The Older Adult’s Quick And Easy Guide to Social Media

By KellyRose McAleer - October 8, 2014

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In the ever-expanding world of social media, you may find it hard to keep your snaps straight from your latergrams. This list of the most popular forms of social media will take you through what each site is used for, as well as the lingo associated with it. After reading this you’ll know exactly how to hashtag your next tweet.


These days nearly everyone is sharing virtually every part of their lives on Facebook , partly because the social media site makes it so easy. Facebook allows you to make an extremely detailed personal profile, filling out everything from your employment history, the places you’ve traveled, your favorite books, and your “relationship status.” Facebook is all about connecting, so sharing all of this personal information is a way for friends and family to keep up with your life. There is a search engine where you can look up your friends by name and “friend request” them. After they accept your request, you can write a public message on their timeline, or send them a private message (which is a lot like an email). Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with distant friends and family because you can share life events on your timeline and upload photos to share. You can also write a “status,” which is like making an announcement to all of your friends – share a link to a YouTube video of cats, or tell you friends that you’re “Moving to Tennessee!” Friends can then connect with you by “liking” your status. The privacy features allows you to control who sees what content. One great feature allows you to go to a friend’s profile and click “See friendship.” This will bring you to a timeline of every instance you and your uncle Tim wrote on each other’s walls, were tagged in a photograph together, or attended an event together.


Where Facebook is about social networking, LinkedIn is about business networking. When you apply for a job, employers may look you up on LinkedIn, since it is an extension of your resume. You can make a profile but instead of listing your favorite books, you upload your resume, career goals, and list the professional skills you have. Instead of “friends” you make “connections” with other professionals. The search engine allows you to look up and apply for internships or jobs in different cities and then apply to them with your profile. When you make a connection with someone you know, you can go to their profile and “endorse” their skills, which means you are vouching for their abilities in “Marketing” or “Leading” or whatever skills they happen to list.


When you see your grandkids whip out their phones to take a picture, odds are they’re about to post something on Snapchat. Snapchat is a photo-messaging smartphone application. The premise of Snapchat is that you can send brief pictures or videos – called “snaps” – to your friends or family before the snaps self-destruct and are deleted forever. This app is perfect for sharing goofy photos, like that weird face your dog makes when he sees a squirrel. After you take a photo, you can add captions, filters, or doodle on it (take that picture of your dog and draw him a beard. Or glasses! Or a top hat!). You can edit the photo to last anywhere from 1 to 10 seconds after your friend has opened it, and manually select which friends it is sent to.


Like Snapchat, Twitter also has constraints on what you post. But instead of putting time limits on a photo, Twitter puts text constraints on each message. Every “tweet” that you post has to be 140 or less “characters.” A character is one letter or space, so “She ate a raisin” would be 16 characters. Where Facebook is a place to tell people all about yourself and have conversations, Twitter is for sharing your brief thoughts and observations throughout the day. Twitter allows you to go by a username you can make up, and instead of “friends” you have “followers.” You don’t even have to know the people you follow; you can follow celebrities like Stephen King, Oprah, or even NPR. Some users create parody accounts where they pretend to tweet as fictional characters, like Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter. Twitter was the first social media site to use “hashtags” in its writing style. A hashtag means you put the pound symbol before a word. This makes the word a link, and when you click on it you are taken to every other public tweet that has that word in it. So, if you write a tweet and add the hashtag #Obama, you can click it and see what other people are saying about Obama. It’s a way to categorize your tweet and then begin a conversation with other people. Twitter is a great way to see what your friends are thinking about throughout their day.


Instagram is a social media app that allows its users to share photos that they take throughout the day. Unlike Snapchat, Instagram photos stay on your profile. The idea is that you can take a picture and share it instantly. The pictures you share can be anything from the view on top of a mountain to a “selfie” (a picture you take of yourself). What makes Instagram so fun for users is that it’s a quick, easy version of Photoshop. Before you post a photo you can add different filters to change the color, crop the photo, sharpen the pixels, add shadows or a background, or write a caption. Like Facebook your friends can “like” each photo, and in your captions you can add hashtags as you would with Twitter. There are even Instagram-specific hashtags, such as #ootd (“Outfit of the Day”) for when you want to share your awesome ensemble, or “#ThrowbackThursday,” which people use to post photos of their younger selves with a caption every Thursday.


Pinterest is a social media site that is less about socializing with friends, and more about discovering new interests. On your profile you can create “boards” and label them things like “DIY,” “Health,” “Make-up,” “Food,” etc. Then you can explore Pinterest and its pins, which have links to hundreds of different websites. When you find a link to a recipe for three-cheese grilled cheese that you want to try, you can “pin” it on your “Food” board where it will be saved until you have time to use it. There are pins for how to dress business-casual, how to do winged eyeliner, how to reuse common household items in your apartment, etc. You can find and follow your friends to see what they are pinning as well. What makes Pinterest so popular is that it’s perfect for finding ways to do crafts and working on self-improvement, but you can wait until you have time in your schedule to use them.


Vine is a six-second video-sharing app. Yup, just six seconds. You’re probably wondering what someone can do with that short amount of time. Surprisingly, a lot – while most teenage users make vine videos of football tailgates or quick montages of their friends faces, a community of comedians have sprung up who specialize in six-second humor, such as the quick-witted Bo Burnham or Brittany Furlan’s rapid pranks. When you download the Vine app, you are able to record six seconds of footage, but they do not have to be six consecutive seconds. As long as your finger is on the camera button it is recording, but when you lift your finger up it ceases to record. This means you can fool around with stop-animation, or make a quick collage of your little brother’s baseball game.


Odds are, your grandchild has shown you YouTube before. They’ve probably sat you down to watch a video of a sneezing panda. Maybe they showed you a video of babies laughing that you both enjoyed. That’s YouTube in a nutshell. YouTube is a video-sharing website where you can watch or upload videos. Ordinary people like Charlie McDonnell have become “YouTube Famous” by hosting channels where they talk about current events, do dares challenged by their viewers, and/or share songs. When you make a YouTube account you can make playlists to save your favorite videos. In addition to felines, YouTube also specializes in music videos, movie trailers, celebrity interviews, and you can rent selected movies for a few dollars. YouTube is primarily a way to beat boredom, be it by watching a goofy video or an educational one such as Crash Course: Literature.