Social Networks – What are they?

Social Networks – What are they?

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What are social networks?

Social networks are tools that you can use to communicate with your friends, children and grandchildren. At this stage of your life, you’re probably thinking, I have enough friends, and I already have email. The last thing I need is to open up another account, remember another password and spend hours staring at a screen with new prompts and icons I don’t understand today and I won’t remember tomorrow. Well you may be right: Facebook is just a glorified email account, Twitter is for the birds, LinkedIn is a fancy address book and we’re still trying to figure out what all the fuss is about Tumblr, and what happened to its missing ‘e’?

But basically, here’s the lowdown, just so you can impress the grandchildren when they come over and try to convince you that you don’t exist if you’re not on Facebook.

Why do you want to be part of one?

Facebook is one of the best ways to keep up with family, and for anyone you care about who lives overseas or far away from you, but like any piece of software, it can be used for good (posting family pictures, sharing interesting video clips such as TED talks, expressing your political and social views, and checking in on your grandchildren) or for ill, namely advertising.

However, if you decide to set up a Facebook account, you can keep it very small, inviting only family and close friends to join your network, and – this is the most important thing about Facebook – you can set the privacy settings of anything you post yourself, and limit who sees it. So you can send your daughter a personal family picture and specify on that post that she alone will see it. To restrict a post, look for the little world icon that comes up next to the word “Post”. Your post privacy settings are usually set  “Public” but if you click on the arrow, a drop down box will give you options. You can even set it so that only you see it.

Or if you don’t mind sharing, you can post a video clip on your own wall, and when your friends click on it, their friends can also access it. Not all their friends will see it pop up on their newsfeed (otherwise called the homepage), just the friends they interact with often.

Stay tuned for our post on how to set up Facebook if you decide this is something you want to do.

And that brings us to Twitter.

Tweet, tweet, tweet is pretty much all I post on my twitter account these days, because really it’s pretty much all I have to say. With the popularity of Facebook, it soon became clear that people loved to update their status and share where they were and what they were up to with their friends. In the early years of Facebook, this was quite acceptable because your Facebook friends were limited to your real friends, so posting “Having lunch with John at the Bagel House” was cool. In no time, your sister, who was buying a book a few blocks away, could reply to your post saying “order me a smoked salmon, cream cheese bagel, no capers” and turn up to join the two of you in minutes. Of course later that day, your cousin would comment saying “why didn’t you invite me, you owe me a coffee?” and when you posted a picture of the three of you having lunch together, everyone ‘liked’ it.

Coupled with the new mobile smartphones, Twitter realized they were could use just Facebook’s most popular feature, its status update facility, to create platform that allowed users to just update their status, in 140 characters or less, which is great if you’re a traveling marvel or if you really do have something to say every fifteen minutes that people are interested in hearing. If not, leave the tweeting to the birds. Anything of supreme importance will eventually land on your cyber wall one way or another.

LinkedIn, neither as much fun nor as useful as DrinkedIn; a bar reviews finder and social network application for drinkers all over the world. LinkedIn is much more than a glorified yellow pages listing for people in the business world. It is actually a useful way to keep business social network and private social network separate from each other, especially if you don’t really want your clients to know you’re actually in the Bahamas for the week. Again, some interesting and relevant articles are shared on LinkedIn, depending on the culture and make up of your social network, and it may be worth setting up a LinkedIn account just to keep your professional toes in those icy professional waters.

And since I mentioned Tumblr, (not that it’s relevant to baby boomers in any way shape or form and  just for your information), it is an essentially visual medium populated by teenagers and young adults who are absolutely bored out of their brains with nothing better to do than to make fun of Nicolas Cage and post some very funny pictures of cats and humans doing ludicrous and ridiculous stupid, albeit entertaining, things. It keeps students wildly amused between class, and probably during class too, and is not for the over forties.

I recommend becoming familiar with a social network site on your computer or tablet before you use the corresponding smartphone application, so you can better understand its features. If you go straight to the phone app, you will probably give up before you’ve had a chance to explore the real benefits and decide which social network is best for you.

Happy Surfing !



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