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How to use social media

Social media and social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are great ways to stay connected – by chatting with family and friends or following public figures and organisations. You might even meet people with similar interests or hobbies. 


What is Facebook?

Facebook is a popular social media platform. It allows you to create a personal profile where you can share your thoughts, pictures, videos and interests on your 'timeline' with your friends and family.

You'll also be able to see what others are posting, so it's a good way to keep in touch. You can also follow organisations and public figures to see their posts, and join local groups to find out about events happening nearby or to discuss community matters.


How do I set up a Facebook account?

Follow these steps to create a Facebook account:

  1. Go to 'facebook.com' and click on 'create new account'.
  2. You'll then need to ener your full name, email address or mobile phone number, date of birth and gender.
  3. Then, choose a strong password. Click here to find out more about password security and how to make a strong password.
  4. Once you've entered and confirmed your password, click 'sign up'.
  5. You'll then need to confirm your email or mobile phone number. To confirm your email address, you'll get sent an email from Facebook with a verification link to click on. To confirm your phone number, you'll get sent a text message with a code that you'll then need to enter into Facebook on your internet browser.

You can then add a profile picture and start connecting with friends and family. There are different ways to add friends on Facebook:

  • Type the name of the person you want to connect with into the search bar at the top of the Facebook page. Once you click on their name, you'll be able to click 'add friend'. They'll then have to confirm your request.
  • If you link your mobile phone number to your account, Facebook will suggest people to add from your phone contacts (if they also have a Facebook account with their phone number linked).
  • Once you start adding friends, Facebook will suggest 'people you may know'. This is based on the friends you have in common, known as 'mutual friends'. If you add information about yourself, like the school or university you went to or your workplace, Facebook will also suggest people from the same networks.

You can download Facebook as an app on your phone or tablet, as well as through an internet browser. Click here to find out more about how to download apps.

Tips for using Facebook

Sending messages on Facebook from a computer

You can send messages to a friend or to a group of friends. These are only visible to the people in the conversation. To do this from the Facebook website on your internet browser:

  1. Log in to Facebook
  2. From the Facebook homepage, click on 'Messenger' in the left-hand menu.
  3. Click on the symbol that looks like a pencil and paper to start a new message.
  4. Type the name of the person you want to talk to in the ‘to’ box
  5. Names of your friends will appear in a list, and you can select the person or people you want to talk to.
  6. Write your message, and press enter or click the symbol that looks like an arrow to send.
  7. Once you have sent a message to someone, the conversation will appear in a list, which you can select and send messages from next time.

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Sending messages on Facebook from a smartphone or tablet

If you want to send messages from your smartphone or tablet, you will need to download the Messenger app (from the Google Play Store if you have an Android phone, or the App Store if you have an iPhone).

  1. Open the Messenger app from your menu and log in using your Facebook username and password.
  2. To send a message to someone new, use the search bar at the top to find them, then select the person you want to talk to from the list.
  3. You can type messages and tap the blue arrow to send.
  4. To share pictures, tap on the symbol that looks like a photograph and choose a photo that you've taken to share.
  5. You can also call people through Messenger by tapping on the symbol that looks like a phone, make video calls by tapping on the symbol that looks like a video camera.

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Making calls through Facebook Messenger

To make phone or video calls on Facebook from a smartphone or tablet, you will need to download the Messenger app (from the Google Play Store if you have an Android phone, or the App Store if you have an iPhone).

  1. Open the Messenger app from your menu and log in using your Facebook username and password.
  2. Use the search bar at the top to find the person you want to call, then select them from the list.
  3. To make a voice call, tap on the symbol that looks like a phone.
  4. Make a video call by tapping on the symbol that looks like a video camera.

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Uploading photos to Facebook

Facebook is a great way to share photos with family and friends.

  1. At the top of your timeline on the Facebook homepage, click or tap on 'Photo/Video'.
  2. Select the photos you want to share from your device.
  3. You can click on the symbol of a blue person to 'tag' friends.
  4. You can click on the red pin to add a location.
  5. Select your audience (it's usually best to share this just with Facebook friends) then click 'Post'.

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Finding events on Facebook

Using Facebook is a good way to find out what is going on locally. You might get invited to an event, which will give you the details of when and where an event is happening.

To find events that you might be interested in going to:

  1. From the Facebook homepage, click 'Events' in the left-hand menu.
  2. Click 'Discover Events'.
  3. You can filter the events by category, time and location to find what is happening near you.

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Joining Facebook groups

Facebook groups enable you to find people with similar interests or connect with people locally. If you’re already involved in local groups or activities, you might find they already have a Facebook group. They allow you to keep updated on topics and share information with a group of people, who you don't have to be Facebook friends with.

To join a group:

  1. From the Facebook homepage click on 'Groups' in the left-hand menu.
  2. You might have been told the name of the Facebook group to join. Type this in the search bar at the top, or type in some keywords for the group you're looking for.
  3. Select the group then click on ‘join group’.
  4. You may have to wait until someone approves your request for the group.

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What is Instagram?

Instagram is a popular social media platform used for sharing photos and videos. It allows you to create a personal profile where you can share with friends and family on your 'Instagram feed' and see their posts, too – so it's a great way to see what everyone is getting up to and stay connected. Many public figures and organisations also have Instagram accounts that you can follow.

Instagram is designed to be used as an app for mobile phones and tablets. You can still access it through a web browser on a computer, but you might not be able to use all of its functions.


How do I set up an Instagram account?

Follow these steps to set up an Instagram account: 

  1. Download the Instagram app from the App Store if you have an iPhone or iPad or the Google Play Store if you have an Android phone. Click here to find out more about how to download apps.
  2. Once the app is installed, open it by tapping on the Instagram icon on your home screen.
  3. If you have an iPhone or iPad, tap on 'create new account'. If your phone or tablet is Android, tap on 'sign up with email or phone number'. Then enter your email address or phone number.
  4. Next, you'll need to confirm your email or mobile phone number. To confirm your email address, you'll get sent an email from Instagram with a verification link to click on. To confirm your phone number, you'll get sent a text message with a code which you'll then need to enter on the app
  5. Create your username and password, fill out your profile information and add a profile picture, To get started with using Instagram, tap 'next'.

Follow these steps to start connecting with friends and family by 'following' them:

  1. Click on the icon that looks like a magnifying glass from the panel of icons at the bottom of the screen. 
  2. Type the name or username of the person you want to follow – this will take you to their profile (or 'page'). 
  3. Tap on the 'follow' button. If their account is public, you'll then see photos and videos that they post on your feed. If their account is private, they'll have to approve your request – once they do, you'll be able to see their full profile and their photos and videos will appear in your feed. 

Tips for using Instagram

Uploading photos to Instagram

Instagram is designed for you to share images with family and friends.

  1. From the Instagram homepage, tap on 'Gallery' if you have an Android phone, or 'Library' if you have an iPhone.
  2. Choose the photo you'd like to share.
  3. You can add a short caption, location and even special effects to the photo, like a 'filter' which changes the style of the image.

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Liking and commenting on photos

Once you are following friends and family on Instagram, their photos will appear on your feed. You can 'like' the photos by tapping on the heart symboland you can add a comment by tapping on the speech bubble symbol then typing your comment. 

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What's a hashtag?

A hashtag is the symbol '#' and is used along with photos to connect an image to a particular topic. You can then search for images on this topic, for example, if you want to see posts about hobbies including #baking or #gardening, or about a certain place, for example, #London or #Cornwall.

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What's a direct message?

Direct messages are a way of contacting people privately on Instagram. Only the person you're sending the message can read it. To send a message:

  1. From the Instagram home page, tap on the paper aeroplane symbol on the top right of your screen.
  2. Tap on the pencil and paper icon in the top right.
  3. Select person you want to send a message to, then tap 'Chat'.
  4. Type a message then tap 'Send'.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is another popular social networking site that enables you to create a profile and publish short public messages, known as 'tweets'. Twitter encourages public conversations, but you can hide your profile from anyone you don't follow and only use Twitter to chat with friends and family.

You can follow your friends and family, but you can also follow public figures and organisations which is a good way to keep up to date with recent events. You'll see tweets from anyone else on Twitter you choose to follow, and you may also see tweets that people you follow have liked or re-posted.

Twitter sets a 280-character limit for  tweets (including letters, numbers and spaces), so you need to keep your tweets short and to the point.


How do I set up a Twitter account?

To create a Twitter account, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Twitter.com and click 'create account' from the box on the right-hand side of the screen.
  2. Enter your name, email address or mobile phone number and date of birth.
  3. You can then choose whether you want to receive emails about your Twitter activity and recommendations, let people find your Twitter account by your email address and whether you want adverts personalised to you.
  4. Depending on what you've chosen to provide, you'll either get sent an email or a text message from Twitter with a verification code to enter to confirm your email or phone number.
  5. Choose a strong password. Click here to find out more about online password security and how to choose a strong password.
  6. You can then choose a profile photo, add a short bio to your profile and choose the topics that interest you – these will be used to suggest people and organisations to follow.

To follow someone, either:

  • Use the search bar on the top of the page and type the name of the person or organisation, click on their profile then click the 'follow' button.
  • Find a tweet from an account you'd like to follow, hover the mouse over their name and click 'follow'.

You can download Twitter as an app on your phone or tablet, as well as accessing it through an internet browser. Click here to find out more about how to download apps.

Twitter encourages public conversation – this means anyone can see what you write or reply to, but you can change your privacy settings. Read our tips below for more information.

Tips for using Twitter

Posting tweets on Twitter

To share your thoughts or updates with your followers or publicly on Twitter:

  1. Type your tweet into the 'compose box' at the top of your home page.
  2. Tweets should be up to 280 characters (letters and spaces) long.
  3. Click the 'Tweet' button to post it to your profile.

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Liking, commenting and re-tweeting

If you see a post that you think is interesting, funny or thought-provoking, you can click on the heart symbol below it to 'like' it.

You can add a comment by tapping on the speech bubble symbol then typing your comment. Unless your settings are private, everyone online will be able to see what you have sent in response.

You might see a post on your timeline that you want to share with people who follow you. Click on the 're-tweet’ symbol', which looks like two arrows, then select 're-tweet'.

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What's a hashtag?

A hashtag is the symbol '#' and is used before words or phrases in tweets. This helps people connect their tweets to a particular topic. You can then search for tweets on this topic, for example, if you want to see posts about a recent TV programme or news story.

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What's a Twitter handle?

A Twitter username is also known as a handle. It appears after the '@' sign in your profile. For example, ϲֱ쿪's handle is @Age_UK. If you want to tag a person or organisation in a tweet, you can include their Twitter handle and they will get notified of the tweet.

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What's a direct message?

Direct messages are a way of contacting people privately on Twitter. Only the person you're sending the message can read it. To send a message:

  1. Tap the envelope symbol on your homepage.
  2. Tap the envelope symbol with a '+' to create a new message.
  3. In the address box enter the name or username of the person you want to send a message to.
  4. Enter your message and click send.

Twitter tends to be used for public conversation, and you might find it's easier to message friends and family using other apps including WhatsApp, Facebook, or through text message.

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How can I protect my privacy on social networks?

By default, your profile and posts are likely to be public, meaning anyone can see them. But you can change your settings to make it private.

Changing your privacy settings on Facebook

To view and adjust your privacy settings at any time, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the icon of your profile photo on the top right-hand corner of the screen – this will bring up a drop-down menu.
  2. From this menu, select 'settings & privacy', and then select 'settings'.
  3. From the menu on the left-hand side of the screen, click on 'privacy'.
  4. You can then choose who can see your posts, your images, who can send you friend requests, and other options. Having your privacy set to 'public' means that anyone on or off Facebook can see your information, but you can change this so that only your friends see what your information and what you post. 

When you post updates or photos on Facebook, you can select the audience and privacy settings for the post before you share it. It's usually a good idea to keep these to 'friends only'.

Making your Instagram account private

You can adjust your privacy settings on Instagram so that only people who follow you can see what you post. If someone new wants to follow you, they'll have to send you a request that you can then approve or reject. Follow these steps to make your account private:

  1. Open the Instagram app from your home screen. Click on the icon of your profile photo from the panel of icons at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Click on the icon that looks like 3 horizontal lines, stacked on top of one another – this will take you to the settings.
  3. Top on 'settings and privacy' and then scroll down to the section entitled 'Who can see your account'. Click on 'account privacy'. If your account is set to private, the button should be blue. To change your account to public, slide this button to the left. 

Protecting your tweets

Twitter will make your tweets public by default, but you can protect them so that only people who follow you can see what you post. You'll still be able to see what everyone else posts.

Follow these steps to protect your tweets:

  1. Click on 'more' from the menu on the left-hand side of your screen, then click 'settings and support' and then 'settings and privacy'. 
  2. Then click on 'privacy and safety' and then 'audience and tagging'. 
  3. Then click 'protect your tweets'. This means that only people who follow you can see your tweets and account information.
  4. Finally, click 'save'. You'll need to enter your password to confirm the change.

Other tips for staying safe on social media

  • Think carefully about who you choose to connect with on social media. Do you know them in real life? Think about how much information you'd share with a stranger in real life.
  • Be cautious with people you've just met online, especially if they ask you to reveal personal information or want to meet you very quickly – they may not be who they say they are. Click here to find out more about this type of scam.
  • Report any abuse to the relevant social network. You can also 'unfriend' and block people on Facebook, and unfollow and block people on Instagram and Twitter. 
  • Avoid publishing personal information, such as your telephone number, address or date of birth. It's also a good idea to pick a username that doesn't include any personal information. For example, avoid using your first and last name and date of bird, such as 'annajones1947'.
  • Use a strong password that's different from the passwords you use for other accounts. Click here to find out more about onlinepassword security and how to choose a strong password.
  • Look out for misinformation. False claims or fake stories can spread easily online. Twitter has started flagging misleading information.

Unsure about social media?

If you want to share photos and videos with friends and family members, but aren't sure whether you want a social media profile, then you could try the messaging app WhatsApp.

Click here to find out more about WhatsApp


What other social networks can I join?

If you're looking to chat with new people online, you could always try using forums. There are plenty of them on the internet and many that might be more suited to you than others.

Gransnet online forums are designed for people over 50, covering lots of different topics. .

Many charities have their own forums where you can talk about specific issues that may be affecting you. For example:

  • Carers UK have their own forum dedicated to carers. .
  • Alzheimer's Society has a forum for people with dementia and their families, called Dementia Talking Point. .

Looking for a computer training class?

Many of our local ϲֱ쿪s provide computer and IT training, to make getting online straightforward and enjoyable.

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Last updated: Jul 10 2023

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