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Using social media

Social networking websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, follow public figures and organisations, and meet people with similar interests or hobbies.


What’s Facebook?

Facebook is the most 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 they're 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 local events or discuss community matters.


How do I set up a Facebook account?

To create a Facebook account:

  1. Go to Facebook.com and click on 'Create New Account'.
  2. Enter your name, email address or mobile phone number, date of birth and gender.
  3. Choose a strong password.
  4. Click 'Sign Up'.
  5. 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 on Facebook.com.

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

  • Use the search bar on the top of the Facebook page and type your friend's name, then click on the Add as a Friend button. They will 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 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. If you add information about yourself, like the school or university you went to or your workplace, Facebook will 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. Read our tips on downloading 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's Instagram?

Instagram is a popular social media platform used for photo sharing. It allows you to create a personal profile where you can share photos with friends and family on your 'Instagram feed' so it's a great way to see what everyone is getting up to. 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 the functions.


How do I set up an Instagram account?

  1. Download the Instagram app from the Google Play Store if you have an Android phone, and the App Store if you have an iPhone or iPad. Read our tips on downloading apps for more information.
  2. Once the app is installed, open it by tapping on the Instagram icon in your menu or home screen.
  3. If your phone or tablet is Android, tap on 'Sign up with email or phone number'. If you have an iPhone or iPad, tap on 'Create New Account'.
  4. Enter your email address or phone number.
  5. 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
  6. Create your username and password, fill out your profile information and add a profile picture, then tap 'Next'.

You can start connecting with, or 'following' friends and family. To do this:

  1. Click on the search icon on the bottom of your screen (it looks like a magnifying glass).
  2. Type the name or username of the person you want to follow.
  3. Tap on the 'Follow' button at the top.
  4. If their account is private, they will have to approve your request.
  5. You'll then see pictures and videos that they post on 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’s Twitter?

Twitter is another popular social networking site that enables you to create a profile and post short public messages, known as 'tweets'. Twitter encourages public conversations, but it’s possible to hide your profile from anyone you don't follow so you can use it just for chatting with friends and family.

You can follow your friends and family, as well as public figures and organisations which is a good way to keep up to date with recent goings-on. You will 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 all 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:

  1. Go to Twitter.com and click on 'Sign up for Twitter'.
  2. Enter your name, email address or mobile phone number and date of birth.
  3. 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. Confirm your email or mobile phone number. You'll get sent an email or text message from Twitter with a verification code to enter.
  5. Choose a strong password.
  6. Choose a profile picture
  7. You can then 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 access it through an internet browser. Read our tips on downloading 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, Age UK'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

You can view and adjust your privacy settings at any time. To view and adjust your privacy settings:

  1. Click on the top right of Facebook.
  2. Select 'Settings & Privacy', then 'Settings'.
  3. Click 'Privacy'.
  4. You can then choose who can see your posts, your images, who can send you friend requests, and other options. Public means that anyone on or off Facebook can see your information, or you can choose for just your Facebook friends to see what you post.

When you post images or updates on Facebook, you can select the audience for each post before you share. It's usually best to keep these to friends only.

Making your Instagram account private

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

  1. Open the Instagram app from your menu.
  2. Tap on 'Profile'.
  3. Tap on the 'Settings' symbol, which looks like three vertical dots.
  4. Top on the button next to where it says 'Private Account'. If you have the Private Account setting on, the button should go green.

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.

To protect your tweets:

  1. Go to your Privacy and safety settings under 'More' in the menu on the left.
  2. Go to the Tweet privacy section
  3. Select 'Protect my tweets'.
  4. Click 'Save'.
  5. You will need to enter your password to confirm the change.

Other tips for staying safe on social media include:

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 would share with a stranger in real life.

  • Be cautious if people you've just met online ask you to reveal personal information or who want to meet you very quickly. They may not be who they say they are. Read more about this type of scam.
  • You can 'unfriend' and block people on Facebook, and unfollow and block people on Instagram and Twitter. You should report any abuse to the social network.
  • Avoid publishing information that identifies you, such as your telephone number, address or date of birth.
  • Pick a username that doesn't include any personal information. For example, avoid using annajones1947'.
  • As with all online accounts, you should use a strong password that is different from the passwords you use for other accounts. Read more about password safety.
  • Look out for misinformation. False claims or fake stories can spread easily online. Twitter has started flagging misleading information.

Not sure if social media is for you?

If you want to share photos and videos with friends and family members, but aren't sure if you want a social media profile, why not try the messaging app WhatsApp?


Other social networks to join

If you're looking to chat with new people online, you could always try going on to 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. Visit Gransnet here.

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

Looking for a computer training class?

The majority of our local Age UKs provide computer training, making getting online simple and enjoyable.

For more information call the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 678 1602.
We’re open 8am to 7pm, every day of the year.

Please help us be there for older people in need

By donating today, you could help us answer more calls to our advice line, campaign harder for older people’s rights and fair treatment and provide regular friendship calls to people who are desperately lonely.

We've put together some handy sheets that you can download and print off to help you get to grips with your computer or device:

Staying safe online

Making the most of your device

Sending and receiving emails

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Last updated: May 13 2021

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