Learning the basics of social media

Computers and the Internet have changed the way we interact and communicate with our families, friends, and communities around the world. With the help of social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, users can stay in touch with many people using very little effort. As a result, our social networks (the people we socialize with regularly) are no longer limited to include only those who are geographically close by or accessible by phone.

What does this mean? In a nutshell, it means we are much more connected with the people in our lives. Families that live scattered across the country can share photos and chat every day. Friends living in different retirement homes can play games together and exchange stories as if they were next-door neighbors. The idea is simple; online social networking helps people maintain strong relationships with more of the people they know.

Facebook is a social networking website designed primarily for people to connect with others that they know, once knew, or have met. At a minimum, the people you add to your Facebook network are your acquaintances, but most will be family and friends. An acquaintance, for example, could be an old classmate you lost touch with or maybe a coworker from a past career.

On Facebook, they refer to all the people in your network as a "friend". You choose who your "friends" are and you can deny accepting someone as a "friend" if you want to.All of your "friends" on Facebook can view your personal profile, which is a collection of information about you. You decide what information you share in your profile. Typically, people share their birthday, a few photos, and maybe a couple of personal interests, such as your favorite book or hobby. Whenever you share something on Facebook, for instance a picture or a comment, all your "friends" can see it. Essentially, your "friends" have access to all of the things you share on Facebook, and you have access to all of the things that they share.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a social networking website that allows users to connect with people they do not know personally, like a celebrity or an author. Friends and family can also be in your Twitter network, but knowing everyone personally is not necessary.

Instead of "friends", Twitter calls the people in your network "followers". All of your "followers" can see everything you decide to share on Twitter. The idea here is that you share small comments that describe what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, or maybe an opinion you have.

How is Twitter useful? Well, let’s pretend you enjoy reading a particular newspaper because of a specific writer. Each time you get the latest copy of that newspaper, you’re able to read another article written by this writer. But, this writer has much more to say. Twitter gives them the opportunity to share more of their ideas and opinions. Instead of only a few articles each week, this writer might share their comments on Twitter several times a day. If you “follow” this writer on Twitter, you can access all the comments they share. You can also comment on the things the writer shares on Twitter, opening a door for communication between you and this person you do not personally know.

The more technology we introduce into our lives, the more connected we can be with our social networks. Time and space are no longer restrictions on having solid relationships with many people living far away.  Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter are a big reason why.