How to Explain Social Media to Your Parents


“What’s Snapchat?” “Is Pin-interest like an online cork-board?” “Isn’t Tumblr a type of glass?” Are you sick of trying to explain social media to your mum and dad? Or have you yourself fallen out of touch with the ever-changing world of social media? What IS social media? In a nutshell, it’s a tool people use to create and share content online. What kind of content? Depends what you’re in the mood for. Let’s ‘update’ your tech awareness by ‘zooming in’ on some of the world’s most popular social media apps.


What’s it used for? Sharing life moments and “interesting” web content. It’s being used a lot by businesses now too. Users can post and share comments, photos, videos and web articles. So it’s a mash up of a traditional photo album, diary and recipe book with lots of dog videos and funny memes thrown into the mix.


What’s it used for? Private messaging between Facebook friends. It’s instant and you can tell when someone has read/ignored your message. It’s no MSN but it’s still today’s ultimate group chatting platform due to the ability to easily share photos, audio, stickers and GIFs (short animations – typically used to represent a current state of mind or reaction).


What’s it used for? Sharing personal photos and videos of things like food, selfies, memes and fashion. #Hashtags (words preceded by a hashtag) are used for search functionality and there are popular weekly hashtags like #motivationmonday (something motivational to start the week) and #throwbackthursday (an old photo).


What’s it used for? Sharing 140-character messages (“tweets”). Hashtags are again used for search functionality but also to gauge what topics are “trending” (mentioned more than others). It’s handy when you’re after real-time news.


What’s it used for? Sending photos or short videos (“snaps”) to followers that only appear for a short time. Private “snaps” disappear after 2 views and “Snap Stories” (a compilation of daily snaps) disappear after 24 hours. The filters are quite fun and addictive, especially the face-swap!


What’s it used for? Sharing and watching videos. If you’re looking for music videos, web tutorials, TV bloopers, news broadcasts – almost anything ever filmed can be found on YouTube (except full movies or TV shows – mostly). Warning – you can easily lose a whole weekend in YouTube-land. Also,  the comments sections can be brutal!


What’s it used for? Blogging. Although it’s basically a multimedia-sharing platform. The place where the most intensely devoted internet fandoms (fan groups) hang out and share awesome GIFs and memes.


What’s it used for? Professional networking. You upload your resume to assist with job hunting, building up professional relationships, sharing achievements and keeping in touch with old colleagues.


What’s it used for? Free messaging. It’s like Facebook Messenger except you don’t have to have a Facebook and it has less bells and whistles (no GIFs). Viber and Kik are similar platforms.


What’s it used for? Sharing travel reviews and booking trips. If you’ve got the travel bug, this is for you. There are millions of reviews and photos of places to visit, eat, play and stay worldwide.


What’s it used for? Online dating. Tinder (like kindling – hence the flame) links to your Facebook profile to build a dating profile and provide matches based on location, age, gender, common interests and mutual friends. You can anonymously ‘swipe left’ (pass) or ‘swipe right’ (like) on matches based on a photo and short description.


What’s it used for? Local business reviews. You can post or search reviews of local restaurants, shops, hotels and other services. My feeling is that it’s used more in the US than it is here but that’s based on nothing except hearing it mentioned on TV shows a lot.


What’s it used for? Photo and video hosting. Hosting is essentially storing content online. You can upload, edit and organise multimedia. It’s used a lot by bloggers to host the photos they use in their posts.


What’s it used for? Photo sharing. It is actually like an online cork-board. You can save photos of things like recipes, DIY projects, decorating tips and travel images onto your own personalised ‘boards’.


What’s it used for? Discussing stuff. It’s a forum. You can post pictures, links, questions or statements which others comment on. There are ‘subreddits’ (specific interest groups) like AskReddit for asking questions, todayilearned for sharing facts and IAmA (‘I am a’ where people post ‘AMAs’ or ‘ask me anythings’) where someone states what they do/are and others ask follow up questions (celebrities use this a fair bit).


What’s it used for? “Exploring your interests”. I don’t use Google+ and neither does anyone I know. Yet it’s apparently popular. Even after researching it (I refuse to create an account), I still don’t get it. Let’s just say Google is Gretchen Wieners and they need to stop trying to make Google+ happen.


What’s it used for? Reading up on your interests. You choose your fave topics (e.g. coffee, fashion, food, etc) and receive tailored web content (photos, videos, news, etc) based on your selection. You can then share these knowledge nuggets elsewhere on social media.


What’s it used for? Finding places to eat, drink and visit. Similar to Yelp. Zomato is another reviewing platform used specifically for restaurants, cafes and bars.


What’s it used for? Broadcasting live video. For those who don’t think Snapchat is invasive enough!


What’s it used for? Sharing 6-second looping videos. For those with tiny attention spans.

Are there any social media apps you’re now thinking of trying…or avoiding?


TV enthusiast, avid children's book collector, amateur food photographer and lover of all things kitschy.