Social Media

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What Is Social Media?

Social media is perhaps the defining feature of the 21st century. They are platforms in which people can share any content they wish and connect with friends, families, and communities. Since the launch of MySpace and subsequently Facebook, millions and now billions of users around the globe have accounts on social media platforms. According to Smart Insights, more than 4.5 billion people have access to the internet at the start of 2020. Active users on social media have passed the 3.8 billion mark. 

With the number of people using social media, it’s important to understand the different popular platforms and the positives and negatives of using them. 

Most Popular Social Media Platforms


Mark Zuckerburg founded Facebook in 2004 while attending Harvard University. The movie The Social Network made that story famous. Today, there are over 2.5 billion users on Facebook, with the number of active users growing by the day. 

On the platform, users can connect with friends and family. It can also be used as a tool to connect with old friends or people that you lost touch with. Users can share photos, videos, links, GIFs, polls, and more with their friends’. Facebook also has many other resources like Marketplace, which allows users to sell items to those who are around them. It is also a great platform for growing a business and networking. 


Facebook actually owns one of the other most popular social media platforms called Instagram. Instagram posts focus more on photo and video sharing with those that follow you. As of January 2020, there were a billion active users on Instagram. 

To share what you are doing “in the moment” Instagram came out with Stories. This feature enables users to share short clips, photos, polls, and even go live. A story disappears within 24 hours but can be saved in a user’s Highlights. 

One trend that has emerged on this platform is Instagram “influencers”. They monetize the number of followers they have by getting sponsored by businesses and doing ads. Businesses can also start an Instagram page and use it to promote their company. 


TikTok, previously known as, is owned by a Chinese company and was the fastest growing social media platform of 2019 and 2020. It currently has 800 million active users. What differentiates TikTok from other social media apps is its algorithm of the “For You Page,” which allows someone with a low number of followers to go viral. 

On TikTok, users can share short clips or a montage of photos to whatever pre-recorded or original sound they want. GIFs, stickers, effects, filters, and more can be added to a TikTok to enhance it. 

People love posting videos containing the latest trending sounds, hashtags, or challenges. For example, TikToker Charli D’Amelio jumped on the dance challenge bandwagon. She has posted easy to learn dance tutorial videos for Savage, Say So, and more. Her popular videos have resulted in her having 16+ million followers. 


Twitter is another popular social media platform with 330 million active users. It is not as commonly used as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, and is known for being used primarily by people who already have a following, like celebrities, athletes, or politicians. 

Users can tweet messages of 280 characters or less in real-time. However, the average tweet is typically only 33 characters. People can tweet a variety of content including links, GIFs, polls, videos, and photos. It is a popular platform for voicing one’s opinion and staying up to date on current news and events. 


Snapchat is a social media platform that operates like an instant messaging app. It allows users to send photos and videos to their friends. In early 2020, Snapchat recorded having 229 million active users. What separates Snapchat from other social media apps is that it deletes the photos and videos that are sent within 24 hours unless the user chooses to save them. 

What rose Snapchat to popularity was the creation of filters people can apply to their Snaps. However, practically every social media platform like Facebook and Instagram have incorporated and improved upon these filter features. 


LinkedIn is considered a professional social networking site. It has 500 million users, but only 250 million are active every month. Only 1% of users post consistently. LinkedIn is used primarily as a way to connect and engage with other professionals, or even send resumes and apply for a job. Many users also use LinkedIn as a marketing tool to provide more information about their business through company pages. 

The Dangers of Using Social Media

Information Privacy

One of the main concerns of social media is privacy. Users upload their information onto the app, and unless their account is private, anyone can find their account and see what they have posted. Also, with the recent Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal where Facebook shared users’ data without permission, users are even more concerned about their information getting out. 


Catfishing is when someone uses someone else’s photos and information to create a fake profile online. This is often done on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Once a user has created a fake account, they may attempt to friend the real person’s friend and obtain their personal information. If you see a fake account imitating your friend, notify the person immediately, and report the account. 


Scamming is another common danger on social media. Scammers can use fake promotions that ask for people’s emails, addresses, phone numbers, and even bank account information. For example, a gift certificate giveaway on Instagram that requires you to fill out a website form. Also, be careful about what links you click on social media platforms. Many of them lead to fake websites or sites that infect computers with malware. 

Online Predators

Perhaps the most serious danger on social media is the presence of online predators. These predators look to target young children and teens who aren’t as familiar with technology, don’t know the proper online safety measures, and are naive. They ultimately are looking for kids to provide explicit images and videos of themselves, send their personal information, or meet in person. Apps like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram are prime apps for predators as they are extremely popular among teens and pre-teens.      

Social Media Safety Tips

Make Sure Your Accounts Are Private

The easiest way to protect your social media account is to make it private. This will prevent anyone who is not friends with you from seeing your posts or personal information. On apps like TikTok, accounts are automatically set to public. 

Limit the Personal Information You Share With Others or Post

Even if an account is private, it is still important to limit the information that is shared via social media. Ask yourself: Am I okay with anyone seeing this post? If you want to post more personal information, it is helpful to keep your account private. Identity thieves could use your personal information to access your account and commit fraud.  

Don’t Message with Strangers

It is also important to not interact with strangers on social media. Unless one is an influencer or a verified account, keep interaction with those you do not know to a minimum. This is particularly a problem for girls who are using Instagram and Snapchat. Strangers may see one of their posts and send them a direct message. 

Only Friend People You Know

On social media, there may be friend/follower requests from people that you don’t know. Check to see if there are any mutual friends, as it may be someone in your friend circle. However, if it is not someone you or any of your friends know, do not accept the friend request. 

Don’t Geotag Your Social Media Posts

Instagram and Facebook allow users to geotag their location. This can be helpful to stalkers who are attempting to figure out where a user might be located or where they spend their time. If your account is not set to private, definitely do not geotag your exact locations. Even if your account is private, it is still safer to avoid giving the followers your location through posts. 

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*This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice