Social media and networks in health and social care
Social media and networks in health and social care

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2.1 Defining online social networks

The term ‘Online Social Network (OSN)’ refers to people connecting through a range of platforms, enabling users to share personal or professional information on a profile (Ryan, 2019). ‘Online Social Media (OSM)’ places its emphasis on social relationships, but is better used to describe the media by which those relationships exist (e.g. video, photos, blogs) (Ryan, 2019). Hence, OSNs represent the platform for the online presence and the relationships within it while OSM is a facilitator and method of communication that links the online presence (Ryan, 2019). The world of social media is constantly changing with new sites and apps being added to the offering. In 2019, the most popular social networks worldwide were Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat (Statista, 2019).

You might have heard of the following types of platform:

  • wikis such as Wikipedia
  • blogs such as WordPress and Tumblr
  • microblogs such as Twitter
  • video and media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat
  • social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

The next activity encourages you to think about different types of OSN and OSM and the purpose for which they are used.

Activity 5 Making the most of social networking

Complete the following activities on the topic of social networks.

  1. Social networking: is it for me? [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]
  2. Keeping up-to-date using online networking


These activities enabled you to explore the different types of social networks and the different platforms appropriate for different purposes: general, professional and special interest. You might already use some or all of these types of social networks or you might have chosen not to engage with social networks at all. You will have considered the benefits of social networks and developed knowledge about how to select an appropriate platform for different purposes.

The next section further explores your interaction with OSN and OSM.

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