Social media 101: Do newcomers need social media?

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Social media is any digital tool that allows users to quickly create and share content with the public. Some may view these platforms as frivolous and self-promoting (and they can be, depending on the user) – but they are also useful tools for finding information, building connection, finding jobs and growing your career, promoting products and services and of course, entertainment.

There are so many social media apps and websites today that it’s hard to keep track. Besides Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube you may have also heard of Snapchat, Tiktok, WhatsApp, Telegram, Parler, Twitch, and many others. These platforms serve different purposes and attract different segments of society.

Types of social media:

  • Social networking – Allows users to interact and connect with each other in various ways. Examples: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Photo sharing – These offer visual “feeds” and show photos and short videos with a caption. Examples: Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Video sharing – These mainly contain videos featuring a wide range of topics and content formats. Examples: YouTube and Vimeo.
  • Interactive media – Aside from photos and videos, these platforms have a variety of unique interactive and experimental features like games, filters or musical overlays. Examples: TikTok and Snapchat.

Most social media tools and apps are free to install and use. However, some may charge fees for additional features and services. For example, a basic LinkedIn account is free but if users would like to find out who has viewed their profile or avail of training courses, In mail messaging and other features, they will need to upgrade to a premium account for a fee (Read Social media basics to know more about Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn).

How can social media help newcomers?

Social media can help newcomers find and share information as well as build connections. They could find social, cultural, and professional information they need on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Examples are job leads, professional networking opportunities, links to skills training, or language services.

It’s also tool that can help sustain ties with family abroad and create new connections in their new home. Aside from posting personal updates, sending instant messages and using video calls, users can also join special interest groups. Interactions on these platforms can ease their feeling of isolation as they find their way around and integrate into their new community.

What should newcomers look out for?

  1. Privacy issues – The amount of personal information shared online can make them vulnerable to security attacks such as hacking, identity theft and viruses. Users should be always aware of what they share on a public platform and keep their privacy settings updated.
  2. Fake news – Not all information are reliable or trustworthy on social media. Navigating it safely requires media literacy and critical thinking. Newcomers should learn basic fact-checking to verify information.
  3. Addiction – Social media can be highly addictive and time-consuming. Aside from the entertainment value, it can provide instant gratification. “Likes” and positive comments on posts can provide immediate ego-boosts. Ease of use can also promote bad habits like doomscrolling or abusive practices like cyberbullying and doxxing.
  4. Image problems/mental health issues – Social media messaging can intensify feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and low self-esteem as posts only show the positive or happy side of life. Users who are craving for connection or attention may also feel frustrated if they can’t get followers or if their posts do not grab attention or garner “likes” or comments.

Undecided?

If you’re curious and just want to test it out, there are platforms that allow you to observe and go through feeds without having to register or share your information. You can install it and lurk for a while. Observe how users interact and see if any of its features will be beneficial to you. Remember that you can uninstall it anytime.

 
Sources: Are social networking sites good for our society? Britannica ProCon.org; What is social media? Matthew Hudson, the balance; The 5 types of social media and the pros and cons of each, Pamela Bump, Hub Spot. Accessed January 12, 2021.

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