Facebook is a social networking website that was originally designed for college students, but is now open to anyone 13 years of age or older. Facebook users can create and customize their own profiles with photos, videos, and information about themselves. Friends can browse the profiles of other friends and write messages on their pages.
Each Facebook profile has a "wall," where friends can post comments. Since the wall is viewable by all the user's friends, wall postings are basically a public conversation. Therefore, it is usually best not to write personal messages on your friends' walls. Instead, you can send a person a private message, which will show up in his or her private Inbox, similar to an e-mail message.
Facebook allows each user to set privacy settings, which by default are pretty strict. For example, if you have not added a certain person as a friend, that person will not be able to view your profile. However, you can adjust the privacy settings to allow users within your network (such as your college or the area you live) to view part or all of your profile. You can also create a "limited profile," which allows you to hide certain parts of your profile from a list of users that you select. If you don't want certain friends to be able to view your full profile, you can add them to your "limited profile" list.
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Twitter is an online service that allows you to share updates and information with other users in 140 characters or less.
In order to use Twitter, you must first sign up for a free account. Once you have created your account, you can post your own updates and view, retweet and favorite the updates others have posted. You can search for people to follow or you can let Twitter select random users. Once you have selected a number of users, their most recent posts, or "tweets," will show up on your Twitter home page. Likewise, your own latest tweets will show up on the home pages of people who have decided to follow you.
Twitter limits each tweet to 140 characters, which means there is no room for rambling. Of course, in this era of limited attention spans, 140 characters may be as much as other users want to read anyway. The character limit is also within the 160 character limit of SMS text messages. This is useful, since tweets can be sent to Twitter using mobile phones. To Twitter via your cell phone, you need to add your phone number in the "Devices" area of the Twitter Settings page.
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Instagram is an image-based online and mobile social networking site.
With Instagram, users share pictures or short videos with captions and hashtags to share information or convey a message. Other users may view, comment on and favorite shared images. Privacy settings in Instagram allow you to decide who sees your images or you can leave the account public, meaning that anyone can view them. Using #hashtags in the comments of images will group them together and, like Facebook, you can "tag" friends in your posts, which will link them to your image or video.
To sign up for an Instagram account, you will need a username and an email. You may change your account or privacy settings anytime and Instagram is used most frequently as a mobile device app, which can be downloaded for free onto your mobile device.