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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


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


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


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.

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Last updated: Nov 02 2020

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