When a friend suggested I download Snapchat, I had a flashback. The girls are out on the town and, being young and silly, someone suggests we visit a strip joint. We find a sleazy-looking doorway and stand outside arguing whether it’s a topless bar, a strip club, a brothel or a place where silly girls disappear forever.
That’s what I think of Snapchat. And those thoughts are born of ignorance, overheard bus conversations and too much information about Anthony Weiner. My friend tried to disabuse me of those thoughts — it’s a visually witty way of communicating, evidently — but I know I’d get into trouble there.
I’m not alone. Other friends are nervous about social media sites. One says she’d never go to Twitter because she’ll get bashed up; one won’t go to Facebook because it seems too much like gossip; and others don’t feel arty enough for Instagram. It’s obvious that we need a guide to social media.
So, accompanied by some digital natives, I’ve donned hot pants for a tour to explain the gathering places of the 21st century to those who still feel more comfortable in the previous one.
First, Facebook. This is a family wedding and there’s no avoiding it. Everyone is here, including uncles who make inappropriate comments and playmates you barely remember except that they never shared toys. Still, there are enough friends and family to make it worthwhile; you get to catch up on news and, because it’s so big, there are lots of corners to hide in.
Twitter: This is a house party held by the cool group. There are celebrities, sidekicks and lots of people wittier than you. In short, you know who they are and they have no idea who you are. It’s a loud shindig and, unless you are full of it, you will be relegated to the edge of the crowd.
Instagram: This is friendlier to introverts. It’s like an art gallery opening where you know the experience will be uplifting even if the wine is undrinkable. You don’t have to parade yourself but you do have to prove your cool by parading your tastes. This group tolerates eccentrics.
Snapchat is a disco. There are images flashing, people who appear and disappear in a wink, and inappropriate behaviour in the toilets that spills on to the dance floor late at night. These events are a blast but you can leave feeling as if you haven’t really talked to anyone, yet you’re pretty sure you’ve done something you’ll regret.
Pinterest: If this were 100 years ago it would be a sewing club. Yes, most visitors are women in their middle years and they like sharing crafty ideas. This doesn’t mean it’s not status conscious. The sharing done here shows off your taste, even if it exposes the limits of your wallet. It’s friendly and you don’t have to socialise too much. Lots of clucking but no kvetching.
LinkedIn: Why did you buy those tickets to the conference? Now that you’re here, you know you’re going to glean only a few useful tips and, even though everyone is wearing a name tag, there aren’t many business opportunities. Face it, you’re trying to sell something and they’re trying to sell something but nobody’s buying. Sure, you go to these conferences only a couple of times a year, but it’s a disappointment every time.
Tumblr: Are you at uni? If not, you’re not going to enjoy this. It’s like being in class where smartypants are passing around notes. Still, it’s a bright, breezy gang that wants to change the world and, if that’s not possible, at least they’ll be well informed about the world’s end.
Reddit: This is a rave in a warehouse. You have to be in the know to find out where it’s being held, but once you arrive everyone is all over it. There’s no bluffing here. If you don’t know your stuff the bouncers are going to kick you out. If you walk in here by accident, walk out again, turn left and find that Snapchat disco.
OK, we’ve covered most of the events happening around town. But don’t be complacent, small bars are popping up all the time — Foursquare, Periscope, Quora — and you may find yourself standing outside one of them wondering if it’s safe to go in. Final tip: find out where your friends are hanging out and go there. gmail.com