Social media is a huge part of our modern day society. These websites and apps help to bring people together through photographs, tweets, video calling and instant messaging. You can gain access to social media platforms on your computer, mobile phones and tablets.
Stereotypically, we associate social media with the younger generations. Teenagers and young adults are constantly on their phones, messaging their friends and uploading "selfies" to their personal profiles.
However, it turns out that older people are also entering the realm of social media. In fact, in June 2017, Ofcom reported that the number of over 75s using social media had doubled in the last year.
The Ofcom report also found that:
Some 48% of online baby boomers aged 65 to 74 now have a social media profile, as do 41% of over 75's, up from 19% a year ago."
You may already have seen our Top 10 Hobby Ideas for Older People or our article on How Technology Can Improve the Lives of Older People. Today's article will focus directly on the top five social media platforms for older people.
The original social media game changer, Facebook connects the world through a series of personal profiles. Mark Zuckerberg and fellow Havard College students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes launched the website on 4th February 2004.
Anybody who signs up for an account on Facebook will need to create a profile. On your profile page, you can add photo albums, write a brief biography, add friends, and write status updates about what's on your mind.
The main aim of Facebook is for you to connect (or re-connect) with your friends and family - no matter where they live in the world. As a Facebook user, you can leave comments on your friends' photographs and statuses. Alternatively, you can talk privately using Facebook's Messenger feature.
Using Facebook is a great way to see what your friends and family are up to, from holiday snaps to exciting activities.
Twitter is another hugely popular social media website. Much like Facebook, Twitter allows you to create your own profile page. Here, you can add a profile picture, a header picture and a short biography about yourself.
On Twitter, instead of having 'friends' you can 'follow' your friends and family's profiles. This means that their Tweets will appear on your Twitter feed (this feed is Twitter's equivalent of a home page). A Tweet is Twitter's version of a status update, limited to 280 characters. Up until November 2017, you were only able to use 140 characters!
Twitter allows you to share brief updates on what you're getting up to, or your thoughts are on a certain topic. Through the use of hashtags e.g. #football or #gardening, you can connect with people across the world who are discussing the same topic.
When lots of people use the same hashtag, it will begin to 'trend' on Twitter. Sporting events such as the Formula One and a football match commonly trigger a trending hashtag. Similarly, politics and news events also trend very often.
You can tailor your Twitter account to your interests. For example, if you're a huge cricket fan, you can choose to follow well-known players, commentators, and fellow fans. This means that your Twitter feed will contain content that you're interested in.
Celebrities, sports stars and companies often use Twitter as a way of communicating with their fans and customers. You can choose to like, and reply to those tweets that interest you. You also have the option to 'Retweet' another Tweet. This is equivalent to posting a Tweet yourself. Anyone who follows your profile will see your Tweets and Retweets on their Twitter feed.
Instagram takes a different approach to social media. This social media platform allows you to curate your own unique page full of photographs. It has been around since 2010 and was acquired by Facebook in 2012 following its huge success.
The Instagram app is aimed at mobile phone and tablet users. Any photos that you take on your device can be uploaded to your Instagram account. You can also edit your photographs with the use of special filters. Once your photograph has been prepared, you can write a caption which will appear beneath the photo. Commonly, people use this area to explain what the photo is about and where it was taken.
Like Twitter, you can also use hashtags to connect to others that are talking about that place or topic. Other Instagram users can follow your account in order to like and comment on your photographs.
Your home page on Instagram will be full of photographs uploaded by the people that you choose to follow. This means that you can tailor your account to suit your interests.
WhatsApp is the social media platform that gives text messaging a run for its money. On WhatsApp, you can message, video call, and voice call friends and family members who also have the app.
This platform relies on an internet connection to work, rather than your text and minutes allowance. Therefore, you will need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network or turn on your mobile data (3G, 4G etc.) This is what made WhatsApp so popular, as you could ring and message people whilst you were away on holiday. For the first time, there was no need to worry about pricey overseas charges.
Using WhatsApp, you can take part in private conversions or create a group chats with several loved ones. In these conversations, you can also send photographs, videos and voice recordings.
One sneaky feature of WhatsApp is that you can see when the person you're speaking to has read your message. Two grey ticks tell you that your message has been successfully delivered, while two blue ticks will indicate that the recipient has opened your message. So, if your grandchildren don't reply and there are two blue tick you can tell them off! WhatsApp also lets you know when somebody is online, which is useful if you're waiting for a response.
WhatsApp has been hugely successful because it really puts the 'instant' in instant messaging. You can download WhatsApp for your mobile phone or tablet device.
YouTube is a different kind of social media site. It allows users to watch and share videos as well as upload their own video content. Creating an account allows you to subscribe to as many other YouTube accounts (known as channels) as you like. Having your own account also means you can post your own videos to the site.
There are more videos on YouTube than anyone could watch in a lifetime. Luckily, the search feature helps you find the kind of content you're looking for. Try searching your favourite band or singer to find their music videos, or search for a film you love to watch trailers and reviews.
Plenty of so-called YouTubers make a living off their videos. The most popular creators earn millions of dollars each year thanks to revenue from advertisements and merchandise.
If you're looking to boost your income, you could do worse than starting a YouTube channel of your own. Perhaps you could be the next viral video star!
Another feature of YouTube is the ability to like and comment on videos. YouTube is free to use, although a new service called YouTube Premium allows users to watch videos without ads and gain access to exclusive content for a monthly subscription fee.
Personal Alarm Information
Having a personal alarm in your home provides you with somebody to help should you have a fall or feel unwell. This means that you can enjoy the features of social media, with the knowledge that you can call for help if something bad happens.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on 25 June 2020 to reflect current information.
Originally published 17 Nov 2017.