Your Guide to Social Media

It feels like social media has been around forever, but it was only 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg and company developed and released, a revolutionary social media platform that promised to connect people with friends, family members, and other networks as well.

Initially, membership was only open to college students, but over time, it began to allow others to join as well, such as high school students, professionals, and eventually, everyone over the age of thirteen. Pretty soon, anyone who was anyone had a Facebook account. Facebook has continued to grow in popularity with seniors.

The same rings true for all social media platforms, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or even Quora. Still, there exists a substantial amount of confusion about not only what social media is, but also what exactly someone does with it. Is it a way to hang out with each other? Does someone need a minimum amount of posts to stay active? What should a person post in the first place?

These are all honest questions that deserve honest answers, so for people who are needing a little help understanding social media, here is a list of the most common questions and some very simple answers.

1. What Exactly Is Social Media?

Social media is exactly as it appears: a form of media (like television, radio, newspaper, etc) that is simply social in nature. In other words, a person derives content and resources from other people with the ability to then share content with others as well. It's a form of entertainment that relies strictly on a network of friends. It also allows you to create new friends within each individual network, so if one person's circles intersect with someone else's, they might find a connection that they didn't previously know was there.

2. Does a Person Need to Be On Every Platform?

Absolutely not. In fact, it's recommended that you only create accounts on the social media outlets that you will actually use (or the ones that all of their friends are on), rather than spreading themselves too thin. Each platform has its own unique capabilities: Instagram, for instance, is predominantly image-based, whereas Twitter is short, choppy blocks of text that contain either links or short bytes of information. Each one of those social media platforms exists as its own company, so there's no need to be on any more networks than someone wants. They're not reliant on each other at all.

3. What Type of Things Should Someone Share?

The simple answer is anything that someone wants to share! Whether it's recipes, funny videos, information about family reunions, pictures from a birthday party, or short quotes and words of wisdom, anything and everything can be posted to a social networking platform (within appropriate guidelines, of course). If people like it, they'll have the ability to either share it themselves, comment underneath, or forward it to someone else. That's what it means when something goes "viral" - it spreads quickly through a social network as people continue to share it.

4. Is Everything Posted on Social Media Public?

Privacy concerns are a big issue these days and for good reason. Nobody wants their private information shared with criminals and virtually nobody wants people they don't know being able to see and comment on their profile activity. Every major social media network has options for privacy controls so people can limit who sees what types of information, including whether or not someone can search for them in the first place. It should be noted, however, that any information shared on social media is stored by the platform, usually for advertising purposes, so if there's something someone doesn't want online, it's best to keep it completely private.

5. Who Is on Social Networks?

A common misconception about social networking is that it only consists of individual profiles, when in fact, social media is actually the home for a number of brands and companies as well. Everyone from Nike to Norway (the country) has an account on social media, and they use it primarily for marketing purposes. In addition, authors, athletes, and other personalities have profiles that allow someone to interact with them semi-directly, as well as bands and television shows. Moreover, there are tons of groups or fan pages that someone can join and interact with other people that have similar interests. The popular social media page Reddit, for example, has thousands of "subreddits" that cater to virtually every interest under the sun. If there's a hobby, most likely there's a group devoted to it.

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