A crash course in some of the top free-to-use social media sites.
If, like many families, yours is scattered to the wind, welcome to your new favourite invention. Skype allows anyone with an internet connection to make free video calls – meaning you can watch your grandkids growing up, even if they’re on the other side of the world. You can connect multiple people at once on group calls, too.
Just create a username and password – and away you go. To call someone, you’ll need to add them to your Contacts list. Click the Contacts tab on the left hand side of your home page, type their name into the search bar, identify them, then click ‘add’.
To ring one of your contacts, simply click the video icon (for a video call) or the phone receiver icon (for a call without video). They’ll need to be logged into Skype to accept the call, so it’s best to tee up a time to ring in advance.
Use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family, find long-lost mates and share photos and videos. Here, your social network is made up of ‘friends’ you connect with by sending ‘friend requests’. Create a profile using your email address, then type the name of the person you’re looking for into the search bar. Click on their profile, then send the request. If you receive a friend request, you can choose to accept or decline.
On Facebook, you’ll be able to read your ‘newsfeed’, which is constantly updated with photos and comments you and your friends ‘post’, plus any other news people ‘share’. Comments or photos you post appear in the newsfeed and on your profile page or ‘timeline’. You and your friends can ‘like’ each other’s posts and comment on them too – it’s an online conversation.
You can also ‘follow’ groups or organisations you’re interested in to find out about events and more.
Click here for a guide to getting started.
More of a visual than a words person? This one’s for you. Instagram is a photo-sharing site accessible via the Instagram app, which can be downloaded free from the App Store, Google Play Store or Windows Phone Store. Creating a profile allows you to post captioned photos. These are shared in the ‘feed’ of the people who ‘follow’ you.
Anyone can choose to follow you, and you can choose to follow anyone you know or admire (no matter how famous) by searching for their name. Usernames on Instagram begin with ‘@’, and ‘hashtags’ (#) are used to link photos about related subjects. For example, type #cake into the search bar and you’ll see photos from all over the globe with captions that include #cake. You can make up your own hashtags, or copy existing ones. You can also link other people or organisations to your photos by including usernames in your captions.
As with Facebook, you can have an Instagram account and never post a thing. Simply enjoy using it to look at inspiring images and learn more about the people who post them, as well as the news of the day.
Click here for more on getting started.
This is another site on which you can set up a profile and choose to post (or in this case, ‘tweet’) or just follow people who interest you and find out what’s news. Your Twitter ‘handle’ is your username – like Instagram it begins with an ‘@’. Sign up using your name, email address and password, and you’re ready to begin.
Join or start any conversation by ‘tweeting’ – posting a short message of up to 140 characters. You can add photos, links and videos too. Just like Facebook and Instagram, the Twitter activity of people you follow shows in your constantly updated ‘feed’.
Curious about a subject? Search the topic and all related tweets will be displayed. Like Instagram, hashtags connect tweets on the same topic.
Visit Twitter for a glossary of the lingo and more.
And then there are...
A couple of other websites you might like to explore are LinkedIn and YouTube. LinkedIn is a professional networking site where employers and people you’ve added to your network post jobs and job seekers post personal profiles. Your profile is essentially an online CV featuring your work experience, skills, education and achievements. LinkedIn makes it easy to connect to others using the contacts in your email address book, by searching the site for people you’d like to connect with, or by accepting invitations or the website’s suggestions of people you may know. Your LinkedIn network also shares news and other information – it’s an ongoing source of ideas and opportunity.
YouTube is a video-sharing website that provides a wealth of inspiration and entertainment. There’s virtually no end to what you’ll find here; there’s truly for something for everyone among the news, educational talks and tutorials, music videos, TV clips and more. You don’t need to sign up – just head to the website then click the links on the left to find out what’s popular (or ‘trending’), type topics that interest you into the search bar, or subscribe to YouTube channels on subjects from tech, to cooking, to politics.
More about apps
Your two-step guide to FaceTime, WhatsApp, Viber and Snapchat.
1. FaceTime, WhatsApp and Viber are all very similar. Accessed from your smartphone, tablet or computer, they all allow you to make free video and audio calls worldwide to family and friends who use the apps using the data from your smartphone or broadband plan and the contacts in your address book. FaceTime is only available for iPhone users; you’ll find the app on your home screen or the task bar on your Mac computer. WhatsApp and Viber are available for free download for iPhone and Android and have the added feature of allowing you to send free texts.
2. Snapchat is a bit of fun that lets users create and share ‘snaps’ (photos and videos). Creative tools let you edit your recordings, adding special effects and applying ‘filters’ that are like virtual costumes that can turn you into all kinds of characters – the grandkids will love it. It’s easy to use: the app opens your phone’s camera, you record a 10-second video, then you send it to a chosen recipient or make it public as a ‘story’. Opt to have your snaps disappear after a set period of time, or save them as ‘memories’.