I have recently received a few concerned emails from readers who are relatively new to the internet and haven’t developed the lacquered, snark-proof shell that the rest of us web citizens have. As a consequence, the delicious satire of my last column was lost on them.

“What should I really use Google+ for? Is it basically like Facebook but slightly more mathematical, evidenced by the inclusion of a plus sign?”

I feel you. I wasn’t always a modem maestro. These things must be learned, often the hard way with a wise sensei waiting in the wings as you battle Cobra Kai in a karate tournament.

Let me be your Mr. Miyagi. Here is my ultra-short guide to how your untrained hands should be using the web’s most popular social media destinations.


Twitter is a service that allows you to post short messages, images and links to a big, noisy stream. Other users follow you and thus get access to your messages, which are adorably called tweets.

Twitter is used best when you’re genuinely interested in hearing what other people are thinking. Twitter is used worst when you neglect capitalization.


Facebook is the catch-all social network. You can post videos, photos, location, what you just read, your relationship status and all sorts of other life events. Facebook is also the doorway to many other sites, allowing you to use your Facebook identity and friends to join new services without having to create a new username and password.

Facebook is used best when you have something delightful to share, preferably in photo form. Facebook is used worst when you’re bored or lonely and want everyone to know about it. Stop doing that.


LinkedIn has been called the business social network. I think it’s more accurate to call it the Simmering Island. LinkedIn is boring but powerful. Let it simmer. LinkedIn is a place to do research and make connections, perhaps while looking for a job, a business partnership or greater insight into a new field. You won’t use it every day like Facebook, but I encourage you to continuously add new connections.

LinkedIn is used best when you have actually met the person you’re connecting to. LinkedIn is used worst when you’re one of those dummies who won’t upload a headshot.


Reddit is the best site on the internet. It’s a strange hybrid of crowd-directed editorial, community appreciation and a utilitarian layout. You will lose hours of your life here — pack a lunch.

Reddit is used best in short visits every day for the rest of your life. Reddit is used worst when you take any of it seriously.


Though its acquisition by Facebook may change the service for good or evil, Instagram is still the most fun way to look at photos taken by people you know or admire. Using arty filters, users’ photos become exponentially prettier. Who doesn’t like pretty things?

Instagram is used best when photographing still items — people are a little boring by comparison. Instagram is used worst when take photos of sunsets. We’ve got enough of those, thanks.

If this column were a salad, this list would represent only the tip of the iceberg lettuce. I have so much more to teach you, child. Bring me an apple.

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