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What are social networking sites?

Lots of people waving from inside a computer screen

The computer industry has always loved buzzwords and one of the latest is ’social networking’. This can be fun, as well as useful, and if you fancy getting involved, then this article will point you in the right direction.

WebWise Team | 10th October 2012

There are a lot of myths about social networking. Firstly, Facebook, Twitter and that sort of thing are for kids (actually, Ofcom figures show that over 50% of the people on these networks are aged 35 and over). Secondly, it’s risky and people will steal your personal details (it’s no more risky than any other internet page). And thirdly, it’s difficult and technical (it’s not).

Social networking is a way of using your computer to talk to other people, exchange pictures, whatever you want to do. We have some articles on specific networks elsewhere on the WebWise site, but here are a few basic pointers:


This is one of the fastest-growing networks. You follow people you know or in whom you’re interested, they follow you, you exchange brief text-only messages. If you say something interesting, one of your followers might ’re-tweet’ it, which means repeating it and saying who said it. So, some of their followers might start to follow you too, and that’s how you meet new people. Great for asking quick questions.


Unlike Twitter, you get a page on the web and can use this for longer bits and pieces. You can upload pictures, videos, play games, whatever you want to do. There are Facebook applications for reviewing books, reviewing films, areas for private messages and for more open discussions. This can really be your place on the internet if you want it to be.


A bit like a Facebook for business. This is a network for contacting and keeping in touch with work colleagues. You may only contact people who are a friend of a friend, or a friend of a friend of a friend, and so forth.


There’s less scope for socialising here, but you can upload and share any pictures you want others to see. You can also download and sometimes use pictures on websites, as many people put them up with few copyright restrictions.


It's still early days for Google's competitor to Facebook and Twitter, but the company is such a behemoth that it's not a good idea to count them out. Google+ lets you put all your acquaintances in separate "circles", so you can post something to your best friends that you might not want sent to your work colleagues.

Check out networks before you post

As a rule, it’s a good idea to have a look at what others are doing before putting your own entries up onto these networks. But once you’re in the swing of it, they can be a great additional resource for finding things out – and who knows, you might have the answer to someone else’s query and be able to help immediately!

The WebWise 'W'

WebWise Team

WebWise was first launched in 1998 and since then has helped people of all ages to learn about and love the internet.