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Social media isn't all just doom and gloom

By Frances Burscough

The meteoric rise of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook has been blamed for a lot of things in the last 10 years: From the breakdown of society and the corruption of our kids to the deterioration of our language, to name but a few. In fact, it’s depicted by many as the seventh circle of cyber hell; a place where evil lurks in every corner, from which nothing good can ever prevail.

However, for every one negative story you hear about, I’m guessing there are twice as many positive occurrences that never get told. This has certainly been my experience since I logged on a decade ago.

Facebook has enabled me to keep in daily touch with my family and friends in England who I left behind when I moved to Northern Ireland. My brothers and sisters all use it and so we can share news, family gossip, photos (old and new) and announcements. Sometimes we all ‘chat’ together in one group too. Even Marion, my dad’s ‘lady friend’, who is 82 years old, has an account and messages me online on a regular basis, keeping me up to date with my dad when I’m not there to see for myself.

Distant relatives who live in far corners of the world — some of whom I’ve never met in person — are now easily within reach, while in the UK I’ve been able to track down and reacquaint myself with numerous friends from the past. This included my first ever boyfriend (!) schoolmates from the old convent days and colleagues from Fashion College. Finding out how they all turned out has been priceless. Even my neighbours use it for quick urgent messages — “Jehovah’s Witnesses on their way to yours! Quick, hide!”

It’s also been invaluable for my work. Having a huge network and vast variety of people all over the place, all instantly to hand at the click of a button, gives any journalist an incredible resource for opinions, ideas, experiences and knowledge. My friends list includes artists, poets, actors, designers, photographers, models, political activists, cartoonists, authors, doctors, teachers, adventurers, chefs, musicians, drag queens, DJs, politicians ... you name it, they’re all out in force on a daily basis, all eager to share their thoughts and views.

So you could say I’ve gained a lot from social media, but it’s not just about chatting and sharing pictures. One of the best aspects for me is the wealth of information that passes across my screen every time I log on.

So, in case you are a newbie to social media, or you’re thinking of making the giant leap into cyberspace yourself by opening an account, here are a few recommendations of just a few of my favourite sites to check out online, and why:

Wildlife on Facebook: A UK-based website where members share their photographs and videos of unusual, scarce, fascinating and beautiful wildlife they’ve spotted.

Aurora Watch UK: A page that gives you a 24hour forecast of the possibility of the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis appearing in the night sky and where to go to see the phenomenon for yourself. 

The Ulster Fry: This is a hilarious satirical news page written very much tongue-in-cheek about news and current affairs in Norn Iron. It’s a belter, so it is ...

I.S.S.: Stands for the International Space Station and is all about the latest happenings on board, including breathtaking footage of the earth as seen from space, as well as a daily forecast of where to see it passing overhead in the sky at night.

Bored Panda: A light-hearted art, design and photography page for creative people, with videos, stories, TV footage, cartoons, you name it. Hugely entertaining stuff, about anything and everything.

Twisted Food: Super quick, super-easy recipe ideas with a 30-second demo video for each one. I’ve had some brilliant dinners and snacks courtesy of this page!

Stillness Speaks: A lovely page where members share beautiful pictures of nature with accompanying verses promoting serenity and harmony.

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