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BEACON Senior News

4 underrated social media sites for communicating with loved ones

Sep 29, 2023 09:32PM ● By Adam Cochran

Social media is my favorite form of communication. Of course, there are countless downsides and ways to misuse and abuse it, but social media is the only form of communication that can simultaneously transcend time and space.

This month, I will focus on the positive side of social media and hopefully provide some valuable tips and insights into how you can stay better connected with friends and family.

Communication types

Communication is fascinating. Men greet each other with a simple glance and thrust of the chin. Civil War soldiers wrote flowery three-page letters simply to talk about the weather and the day’s events. And today, people fall in love and break up over text messages using memes and emojis.

All previous forms of communication have been limited.

Words on paper open the imagination and allow the writer to create images and appeal to the emotions of the reader. But it’s time-sensitive and half-duplex, meaning sending and receiving the message cannot happen simultaneously.

Audio provides a fuller experience and it can travel over great distances and be consumed live. But it’s often one-way. Take a radio listener, conference speaker, or a concert, for example.

Visual communication (video) provides the most complete quantity of information in the most efficient way, but it stifles the imagination and is inherently one-way. In-person communication is wonderful, but it can only happen in person. Telephones are perfect for timely conversations and frequent updates, but they leave no record, video or transcript.

Social media simultaneously documents the past, establishes a full-duplex form of two-way communication in the present, and provides a venue for preparing us for future events.

4 underrated social media platforms

I once heard someone explain that social media platforms fit into three groups: what you plan to do, what you’re doing right at this moment and what you’ve done in the past. 

Facebook is, by far, the most popular form of social media, but it’s not always the best fit for every situation. Instagram is a fantastic way to post pictures and updates to the masses or to individuals, but it is also owned by Facebook, as is WhatsApp and the new Twitter alternative called Threads.

There are four social media platforms that I think people should use more often for communication: 

1. Marco Polo is one of my favorites. The service allows both delayed and simultaneous video updates using smartphone video. 

Think of it as a video text message service that can also be used as a video calling service. If you want to show someone what you’re up to in real time, you can activate your camera and start talking. If the audience is available, they can watch live. If not, the video will be available immediately. 

Unlike Instagram and YouTube, Marco Polo is designed to be personal for a small audience. It’s a great app for families who are spread out to keep in touch.

2. Reddit has been around longer than most other social media platforms, but it has withstood the test of time for a reason. It is an archive of questions, discussions, jokes, articles and data dumps on every topic imaginable.

Reddit doesn’t try to do everything. The service is for posting content and creating both live and delayed conversations for public consumption.

3. Discord is probably the nerdiest social media platform. It’s a small social media network for groups of people with similar interests. Discord is commonly used by people who play online video games, students and people in the tech industry. Slack is a close cousin that is very similar in purpose, but its user interface and functionality lend themselves more to businesses.

Either tool is great for groups of people who work on multiple projects, topics, events or subjects simultaneously. For example, if a church group has various committees that are all working on multiple events, Slack or Discord can be used to separate the topics and conversations into threads so that everyone can see what’s happening without wires getting crossed.

4. Nextdoor is probably the simplest social media platform to understand and use. It is designed for a very precise audience: neighbors.

Nextdoor allows people who are connected geographically to connect in small social networks. Users can advertise their small businesses, ask about services, remind each other about important community events and it’s fast becoming the best and most popular platform for local classified ads.

To get the best out of social media, it’s best to focus on why you need to communicate the message, who you need to communicate with, when it needs to be communicated and where the audience can best be reached. Nobody should feel obligated to use all forms of social media or any form at all, but it’s important to understand that avoiding social media means avoiding access to the most real-time and interactive form of communication ever invented.