Social Media 101: The Do’s and Don’ts of the Web

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I’m writing a letter to my grandmother, who actually just joined Facebook two months ago, and some of the things in this letter are exactly what I taught her.

Dear Grandma,

I’m so glad that you’ve finally become a part of Facebook and are beginning to learn about the social media world and how it functions. There’s really no age to learning a new skill and trust me, this can help in several ways after you’ve learnt all the perks and downsides to social media.

The Internet is a very fast, yet complicated, resource but when you’ve gotten a hold on different social media sites, it’s easy to understand how everything circulates online. Like the New York Times Insights White Paper mentioned, sharing content is not new and has been around since ages, the only difference is that the same kind of content is being published online now by sharing, Liking, and leaving comments on different articles/videos.

Credit: New York Times Insights White Paper

First of all, I wanted to briefly introduce you to some of the popular social media websites out there. You already know about Facebook, but besides that there is Twitter, which has a limit of 140 character messages called “Tweets.” The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users. Instagram has become increasingly popular over the years, which is an app for users to post pictures. It usually has smaller captions and is used best on a mobile device since it’s just for photos. LinkedIn is a more business-orientated social networking service. Other trending social apps/websites include Snapchat, YouTube, Vine, Periscope, etc.

Now let’s move on to how you would use social media according to your likes and interests. Everybody uses Facebook and Twitter to share content that they are personally or professionally interested in. The Psychology of Sharing by the New York Times Insights White Paper talks about the motivations of sharing content according to the users’ personal likes and dislikes. Following is a breakdown of the topics that I know you would be interested in:


Since you are usually following politics, almost all of the politicians and candidates for the 2016 President Elections tweet/post about updates on their social media pages. They also have information regarding their upcoming campaigns, events, and conferences for people who are interested in attending.

Credit: Hillary Clinton’s Twitter Account

Celebrities often use Twitter and Instagram as well to keep fans updated on upcoming songs, movies, TV shows etc. A lot of the times, celebrities use social media to express their concerns about a specific topic. For example, there was a recent conflict between rapper Kanye West and singer Taylor Swift on Twitter which caught a lot of media attention.

Credit: Kanye West’s Twitter Account

Many of the tweets by celebrities would mostly contain gossip and drama and of course, you can’t trust every single post out there.

Food-Related and DIY Videos

This is something I know you are always watching on TV so I thought I might help you figure out a way to follow popular websites and pages that post such content. BuzzFeed Food is a great source, whether on Facebook or through its website, to find different food-related articles and videos. From desserts to different cuisines, they have it all on their social page. It’s a great way to experiment with cooking, much easier than trying out different cook books. This way you can sit at home and do all the searching you want!

Credit: BuzzFeed Food’s Facebook Page

Similarly, BuzzFeed also has Do-It-Yourself (DIY) videos for people that like to get a little creative once in a while. I purposely added this to the letter because you like to make different household items and you have a creative arts and crafts side.


Lastly, social media keeps you updated with national and global news. By following Fox News, CNN, BBC, and other local channels on Twitter, you can stay in touch with what’s happening. To be honest, news reaches social media way quicker than on TV or the newspaper. You could also follow news regarding back home in Pakistan by following its specific Twitter accounts, such as ARY News, GEO, Express etc. Just make sure the accounts are legit and verified and the news is not updated by an unknown source.

Credit: ARY News’ Twitter Account

Now that we’ve covered the fun stuff, the biggest flaw of social media is that not everything you see or hear online is true. There are a lot of spammers out there and you might need to keep your eyes open for validated pieces of information. Therefore, always be skeptical is my number one rule while sharing any piece of content, or even when contacting a stranger for something.

By assuming that everything you see online might and can be fake; you won’t always share the wrong content and it might just not spread like wildfire. Accredited pages and groups are always, of course, much more safer to trust and might not need an extensive verification process. Secondly, don’t always trust the person behind his or her account. If you don’t know someone well, you might not want to “follow” or become “friends” with that person. The last thing you want is for all your information to be open to a complete stranger.

Lastly, when you become an expert at social media and want to create your own page/website, you can always use Google Analytics to track how many users are viewing which particular content. This website gives you statistics on page views, users, pages per session, average session duration, bounce rate etc.

Well, that’s all for now. Hope you have a wonderful time starting your social media life. Good luck out there!

Love from your favorite granddaughter,



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