Social media may have caught fire with high school and college age kids, but more and more it’s becoming a place for adults, parents and grandparents as well. Today, over 50% of adults age 50-64 use social media. Ten years ago that number was closer to 5%.
Social media sites and apps are a great way to keep in touch with friends and relatives, find groups that share common interests, and learn new skills and hobbies. Here are five ways you can use social media to enrich your life.
1. Promote yourself on Instagram.
If you think Instagram is just for celebrity influencers, inspirational quotes, and teenagers posting selfies, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that this photo-sharing app has a professional, classier side that’s perfect for promoting anything you have to offer.
If you sell a product, like handmade jewelry, or provide a service, like party planning, posting pics of your wares or events can gain you new customers in your town and around the world. If you work in any industry that relies on a certain image or lifestyle goal — real estate, say, or food — Instagram can help you grow your audience well beyond those who are currently shopping for a house or searching for a recipe.
If you have any sort of creative or visual hobby or passion, from arranging flowers to restoring old houses to sketching, Instagram makes it easy to show off your hard work. The app can also introduce you to others who share your interests.
And if you don’t have a business or personal brand to promote, or you’d prefer to keep yourself off Instagram, you might want to create an account just for your pet. Really. On Instagram, thousands of adorable animals have massive followings.
2. Find local info on Twitter.
Twitter is famous for celebrity scandals and political spats, but this micro-blogging platform has a very different, non-controversial use. Sign up for an account — you don’t have to tweet anything, you can simply follow others — and you’ll have instant access to all sorts of local information.
On Twitter, you can get weather updates from your favorite meteorologist hours before the nightly news, find out about new restaurants and stores opening in your city months before the ribbon-cutting, and check on traffic and road closures in real time before you get stuck on the highway. Twitter’s search function and hashtags can help you search for local goings-on, and answer questions like whether the concert in the park tonight is cancelled due to rain, or whether anyone else in your neighborhood just heard that mysterious loud noise.
Twitter’s local benefits continue even when you’re far from home. If you’re traveling, just follow your destination city’s department of transportation, or the airports, airlines, or train services you’ll be using. You can also follow your temporary location’s food truck trackers, local newspapers, or nightlife sites, and then unfollow them when your trip is completed.
3. Make connections on Facebook.
You’re probably all too aware that Facebook can put you in touch with your family members and old high school classmates. But even if that sounds like your worst nightmare, don’t write off this social media juggernaut right off the bat.
If you concentrate less on “friends” and “likes” and more on Facebook’s Groups feature, you can (mostly) avoid the personal drama and access an online version of pen pal programs, meetups, or networking events. Join your neighborhood’s Facebook groups and stay updated on open houses, furniture for sale, and local crime warnings.
You can check out career groups, where people post job leads and share industry-specific tips. Or search for hobby groups, where you can talk to fellow Deadheads, boaters, or book lovers. There’s also groups who share ideas on topics of mutual interest, such as raising children, the challenges of caregiving, or creatively aging in place.
4. Reinvent your life with Pinterest.
If you never quite got the point of Pinterest, which lets you post (or “pin”) images and other content from the web to your own themed “boards,” it’s a bit like saving a folder of useful magazine clippings, but without the actual paper clutter. Another advantage is that you can draw on everything that’s been clipped by millions of other people interested in the same topics.
And Pinterest’s search function lets you look up very specific criteria, like “crafts to make with children” or “healthy portable plant-based lunches.” Did you just bring home a new white jacket but unsure how to wear it? Pinterest is a great tool for seeing how other people might style it, and it’s the perfect place to turn for inspiration and instruction when you want to reinvent some aspect of your life.
Want to begin a new diet or fitness plan, redecorate your home, get organized, or start planning a themed party? Thousands of other people do, too, and they’ve already pinned all the advice you need to get started!
5. Learn from YouTube.
YouTube began as a place where anyone could upload random video clips of, well, almost anything; it has morphed into a platform where regular people can be paid millions to subtly advertise high-end products. But between its newly-minted stars and its old, grainy, cat videos, YouTube is full of educational clips that can teach you pretty much whatever you want to know.
Whether you’re unsure how to do an everyday task like change a tire, cook a chicken, or apply eyeliner; are curious about what snack foods are available in foreign countries; or are intrigued by TED talks and lectures from experts on history, art, or science, YouTube probably has what you’re seeking.
It’s also a great place to find every genre of music you can imagine — from classical to classic rock, and from standards to today’s newest sounds. While YouTube’s comments section is often best avoided, the conversations on smaller or more niche channels can be surprisingly respectful, and serve as a place to converse with other people who share your questions and obsessions.
If you’re feeling particularly brave, it’s easy to start a channel yourself and upload your own videos, sharing your expertise and fascinations with a whole new group of people.
These five platforms are just the tip of the social media iceberg. After trying them, you might find you like them enough to use them in ways other than those mentioned here, or to discover other platforms on which to share information and connect with people in the virtual world.
And, sometimes, social media can even lead to real in-person friendships. So if you’ve been discounting social media altogether because you think it’s a young person’s game, take a moment to delve into your options and just see what happens.
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