Millions of people around the world use social media. Social media are the Internet platforms that allow users to create content and share information. The largest services include Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn focuses on business and career development. Other sites are aimed at younger users. Most people use these sites to form social networks.
In essence, social networks allow individuals to stay in contact with others. Their networks may include friends, family, classmates, and business associates. Social media sites also allow people to link with their friends' friends. In this way, social media differs from the chat rooms that were once the most popular way to interact online. Those forums centered on specific subjects. On social media, users create their own unique forums. They do so by building pages about themselves. The pages may include photos, videos, text, and other information about the user. The user can then link their page to pages of friends.
Different social media sites provide varying degrees of privacy. Some are anonymous. Members use "screen names." On others, members post photos and detailed personal information. Often, social media sites allow users to select different levels of privacy for different levels of contacts.
In just a few years, social media has become wildly popular. As of 2015, Facebook had approximately 1.5 billion active users. It is, by far, the most popular social media site. It is also among the most visited Internet sites of any kind. Twitter and Instagram are next. They each have about 300 million active users. There are hundreds of other such sites with smaller memberships.