Social media has become an extremely popular way to keep in touch with friends, family and other contacts. It also provides a potential space for making new contacts and friends from around the world. There are lots of options which are targeted at different markets and work in slightly different ways. Rather than try to cover every option out there I have stuck to the three most popular.


Facebook is one of the oldest of the social media platforms and it is the most popular worldwide boasting over 1 billion active users a month.

- Due to the global popularity of Facebook the site can help you to reconnect with people you may have lost touch with
- Wide range of activities you can do once you have a Facebook account e.g. join Facebook groups, create Facebook pages for business or leisure activities, like and follow Facebook pages, send email-like messages to contacts using the direct message option, send and receive instant messages via the chat options and play games.
- Easy to set up an account.  All you need is an email address.

- Facebook regularly reviews and alters it's privacy settings so users will need to keep an eye on these if they wish their information to have limited visibility and only be seen by friends.
- There is no fee for setting up a Facebook account so much of the income generated by the site comes from advertising.  This means that if you don't have ad-blocking software added to your browser you will see quite a few ads popping up in the side bar and in amongst your feed.  Ads are also personalised and targeted using the demographic information collected on peoples personal profiles so don't be surprised if you see adverts pop up on your page that don't appear on your friends and family.
- Facebook has the potential to become very time consuming and the temptation to keep checking your page, Facebook feed and updating your status can be addictive.  


Twitter works in a similar way to the status updates in Facebook.  As post length is limited users are encouraged to be concise when sharing their views and comments.  Hashtags '#' are used to give context to tweets.
- Easy to set up and use.  All you need is an email address.
- Quick and easy to follow people.  
- Fast way to share views and stay updated on events and news.
- Easy to join in real-time conversations and follow specific issues or topics using hashtags.
- Less cluttered appearance than Facebook.

- Limited space to write your posts.  All posts must have no more than 140 characters (i.e. letter, numbers, punctuation and spaces) therefore there is more scope for tweets to be misinterpreted.
- Be mindful that once you have hit the 'tweet' button that post will be out there for the world to see.  You can delete tweets but if they have already appeared in friends and followers feeds deleting them will make no difference.
- Users are more vulnerable to internet trolls and cyber bullying, i.e. people who are deliberately mean or provocative.  For more information on protecting yourself read Minds leaflet on online safety.


A similar platform to Facebook where users create a profile page where they can share photos, comments, links to websites and videos.  

- Quick and easy to set up a profile page.  All you need is a Google account, such as a email address or YouTube account.  If you don't already have one of these, don't worry, they are easy to set up.
- Easy to post content such as comments, photos, videos and website links 
- Easy for users to follow other users and join open communities. No 'friend request' feature so you don't need to get permission from other users in order to follow them or add them to your 'circles'.  Circles are a means of grouping contacts and these can be personalised by the user.

- Although Google as a brand is enormously popular, it's social media platform, Google+, is less well known than Facebook and has fewer active users.  This therefore means that it could be harder to reconnect with friends and family members as they may not have a profile page set up.
- Like Twitter, Google+ is open so once you post something to your page it will be visible to anyone using the site. 
- The information gathered by Google, through your Google+ account, Google searches and YouTube will be used to personalise the advertisements you see.  Put simply, if you search for pictures and videos of cats you will see more advertisements for cat related products, websites and services.