Social Networking and Social Media

A Guide for People with Lived Experience of Mental Health Issues and Recovery

An interactive guide to the online and social media landscapes, with a variety of clickable links and resources. Developed by the National Empowerment Center.

Many people are overwhelmed by the speed of technological innovation and variety of technologies and tools that exist in today’s world. Yet, these technologies are becoming increasingly accessible and user-friendly, even to the most techno-phobic of people. People of all ages, from 9 to 99, are online and exploring the exciting world of digital communication.

One of the more exciting characteristics of our new technology landscape is the ways in which connections can be made and information shared with greater ease than ever before. Many consumer/survivors of the mental health system are using these technologies to network and share ideas with people whom they may never have encountered face-to-face. Others, such as Icarus Project members, are using the internet for peer support through live online chats, listservs, and other technologies. Blogging, podcasting, and sharing digital videos are other ways that consumer/survivors are helping to raise awareness about mental health recovery and alternatives.

Finally, we recognize that many consumer/survivors and peer-run organizations have limited resources and access to technology. Therefore, we have included an “access to resources” section at the end of this guide, which will give you some ideas as to how to secure computers and other technology for yourself and/or your organization. It takes some legwork and imagination, but it is possible!

The sky is truly the limit. While it can be intimidating to the “newbie” (person unfamiliar with a given technology), all it takes is a little courage to get started, and a little perseverance to keep going. Go ahead, you can do it!

This guide is organized from the most simple technologies (email) to the most complex (creating and sharing digital videos). It is not meant to be an exhaustive survey of every technology out there; we have tried to provide enough information in each section for the beginner to get started. Each section has a number of “links” – the clickable text in blue – that will take you to relevant articles, resources, and information.

Feel free to dip your toe in wherever you feel comfortable. Perhaps you can start with just one thing: setting up a Gmail account, watching some digital videos on YouTube, creating a Skype ID, starting a blog, or creating your Facebook profile. Once you have turned that corner, it’s time to get started exploring this exciting new world. We hope that this guide will give you the inspiration and information you need to navigate the new media landscape with confidence.


While there are hundreds, if not thousands of kinds of email accounts out there, we recommend Gmail. This is Google’s email system, and with just one Google/Gmail account, you can easily access all the cool Google features discussed in this guide, and many more. Gmail also has lots more storage space than other services out there, so you won’t have to worry about your inbox getting full.

Click here to create your Google/Gmail account!

File Sharing

Occasionally you may need to send a large file to someone, and you find their inbox “bounces” the email back to you due to account restrictions. In this case, you can use some free services that are designed for sending large files back and forth.


YouSendIt ( is the most popular and secure online file sharing software that allows you to easily send large files and email attachments. Once you create a free YouSendIt account, you can send up to one file at a time to the people you specify. They are sent a link (that expires in seven days) that allows them to download the file you send.


Dropbox ( s a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Never email yourself a file again!

Google Docs

Google Docs offers free, online word processing, spreadsheets, forms and more.

Say you have a document that you’d like multiple people to review on a conference call. With Google Docs, you can upload the document, invite everyone in your group to view it and/or edit it. In this way, collaborative editing of documents is possible.

Online Discussion Groups

Communicating through online discussion groups is as easy as sending an email – except that your email will go out to an entire group, as opposed to one person, or a group of people whom you manually select. These groups are a great way to organize around common interests.

We recommend: Google Groups

Google Groups is a service from Google Inc. that supports discussion groups based on common interests. Membership in Google Groups is free of charge and many groups are anonymous. Users can find discussion groups related to their interests and participate in conversations, either through a web interface or by e-mail. They can also start new groups.

How to Start a Google Group
Want to start a Google discussion group but not sure where to start? This tutorial will walk you through the process.

Remember the days of sky-high long-distance rates? With VOIP, those days are a thing of the past. VOIP simply refers to technologies that allow voice communication over the internet – as well as video calling, if both you and the person you are calling have a “webcam” or videocamera built into your computer. Most new computers have webcams built in as a standard feature.

Google Talk

Google Talk is a downloadable chat application by Google. With it, you can:

Text chat

  • Instant messages: share quick thoughts in real time
  • Status updates: see if friends are around and what they are up to
  • File transfer: instantly send and receive files, pictures, and more

Voice chat

  • Free long distance: make PC-to-PC calls to people anywhere in the world
  • Audio conferencing: talk to multiple people at once
  • Gmail integration: chat with your friends on Gmail

Google Voice

Google Voice gives you one number for all your phones — a phone number that is tied to you, not to a device or a location. Use it to simplify the way you use phones, make using voicemail as easy as email, customize your callers’ experience, and more. Check out these videos to learn about all the ways to use Google Voice.

Google Voice Mobile App (Blackberry, iPhone and Android): a great way to take advantage of all the Google Voice features on your phone. Click here for a video that walks you through the features.


Another great tool for communicating with people around the world. Get a Skype ID and “call” people “skype-to-skype” (meaning others who have Skype IDs) for free through your computer; you can also call mobile or land-line numbers (nationally or internationally) for a minimal fee. Video calling also available.

Getting started with Skype (Windows)

Getting started with Skype (Mac)

Introduction to Blogging

“Blog” is an abbreviated version of “weblog,” which is a term used to describe web sites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A blog features diary-type commentary and links to articles on other Web sites, usually presented as a list of entries in reverse chronological order. Blogs range from the personal to the political, and can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects. Click here to read the entire article.

Create your own blog – free!
The resources below are all ways to get started blogging today.

Free weblog publishing tool from Google, for sharing text, photos and video.

You can get a blog started in less time than it takes you to read this sentence. All you need is an email address

What are social media and social networking?

Social media is a newer concept that has yet to adopt a standardized definition. However, social media can be best defined as various avenues through which people share information, public or private, with a select group of people.

Social networking is defined as being the act of exchanging information, personal or public, through various forms of technology, such as the Internet, cell phones, and other services. Almost all social media has emerged on the Internet, with many developing applications, or “apps,” for use on cell phones, MP3 players, and other handheld devices.

Why is Social Media and Social Networking Important?

Social media and networking have become a diverse tool and can be accessed by anyone. One person can post or share information and share it with hundreds, even thousands, of people across the world in a matter of seconds.

This new phenomenon has changed the way that people share information. In the past, when someone wanted to share something with a large audience, a person had to enlist a newspaper, television or radio station, or access an email list server in order to reach those people. Now, with the emergence of social media, the same information can be shared in a matter of seconds.

Source: What Is Social Networking? |

What is Social Networking?
Helpful article from WebTrends.

The Top Social Networking Sites
A quick review of the social networking landscape.

Social Networking Guide for Beginners


Twitter ( is a micro-blogging platform that limits your posts (also known as “tweets”) to 140 characters or two short sentences.
Twitter 101: How to Get Started with Twitter
Video: Twitter 101, An Overview of the Basics of Twitter (Great for Newbies)


Facebook ( is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. As of July 2011, Facebook has more than 750 million active users. Users may create a personal profile, add other users as friends, and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile. (Source:

Google +

In September 2011, this social networking site went public. Similar to Facebook, Google + ( has a lot of exciting features, including what are known as “on-air hangouts” which lets their users get together for simultaneous video chatting. The “circles” feature encourages users to group their friends together by category — eg. school friends, relatives, work colleagues etc.

Watch this video to get an overview of Google +
Google +: the Complete Guide


Once the most popular social networking website, Myspace ( was overtaken in popularity by Facebook in recent years. Today, Myspace has focused on sharing entertainment, and is a good place to connect to your favorite bands, TV shows, celebrities, etc.


Websites such as LinkedIn ( allow professionals to network with one another via the Internet and exchange information about their professional fields. Many professionals use sites like LinkedIn to bolster their professionalism, and supplement their social media image with profiles on Facebook, feeds on Twitter, and blogs.

LinkedIn helps you:

  • Establish your professional profile online
  • Stay in touch with colleagues and friends
  • Find experts, ideas and opportunities

How Podcasting Works

Just as blogging has enabled almost anyone with a computer to become a bona fide reporter, podcasting allows virtually anyone with a computer to become a radio disc jockey, talk show host or recording artist. Click here to read the full article.

Social Media Toolbox: Podcasting
Great compilation of resources for the beginning to advanced podcaster.

Internet Radio

Gone are the days when you needed connections and clout to get on the radio. Today being your own talk show host is as easy as securing an inexpensive microphone and joining one of the free internet radio sites. With a little creative promotion, you can create your own following online!

BlogTalk Radio
BlogTalkRadio is the easiest way to create and share audio on the web.

BlogTalk Radio 101
Everything you need to know to about hosting a show. Watch screencast tutorials and participate in a live training session.

MindFreedom Live Free Mad Pride Radio
Internet radio on a variety of topics relating to human rights and mental health, hosted by David W. Oaks.

Madness Radio
Nationally syndicated radio show on a variety of mental health topics, hosted by Will Hall and available online.

Digital video is one of the most powerful ways to move hearts and minds. More and more, short videos are used to raise awareness and funds for causes people care about.

Below are some quick links to help you delve deeper into the world of digital video.

Beyond Viral Video: Nonprofit Storytelling in the Digital Age (PowerPoint)

Introduction to Video for Nonprofits (PowerPoint)

See3 Communications: Guide to Online Video – Effective Strategies for Video Advocacy

Online Video – Frequently Asked Questions


YouTube ( is a video-sharing website on which users can upload, share, and view videos. Videos were once limited to ten minutes or less, but this restriction has been lifted. How to get started on YouTube


Vimeo ( is a video-centric social networking site (owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp) which launched in November 2004. The site supports embedding, sharing, video storage, and user-commenting on each video page. Vimeo Basics

Vimeo Video School

A fun place for anyone to learn how to make better videos. Start by browsing their Vimeo Lessons, or find specific video tutorials created by other members.

Tripods: An Expose
Cute video showing the basics of tripod usage.

Flip Video Spotlight — Shooting Tips

Excellent brief tutorial on the fundamentals of creating professional shots.

Witness Video Advocacy Training Guide

Incredibly detailed guide with tutorials on conceptualization and production of powerful advocacy videos.

Join the Digital Media Revolution: Using Video to Tell Your Story

Tips on how to craft a compelling story for the web.

Techsoup Refurbished Computer Initiative (RCI)

A pioneering program bringing high-quality refurbished computers and other hardware to nonprofits and libraries. [Click to visit RCI)

Computer Recycling Center

Computer Recycling Center makes refurbished computers and laptops available to youth groups, low-income families, the elderly, teachers and other community-based nonprofit organizations. Fill out their application form and include the appropriate shipping fee. is an online network of charitable individuals who post gifts and donations of many things, including computers, so that others may benefit from their gifts.

Craig’s List

Many individuals are giving away or cheaply selling their previously-owned computers in your community. []

World Computer Exchange

World Computer Exchange is a portal for rescuing used computers, refurbishing them and distributing them throughout the world. This company has benefited many communities and organizations that otherwise would not have been able to afford a computer or laptop. Visit their website for more information on donating or receiving a free computer.

Nonprofit technology network (NTEN)

NTEN ( aspires to a world where all nonprofit organizations skillfully and confidently use technology to meet community needs and fulfill their missions.

Beth Kanter’s Blog

Beth Kanter is the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits.

We are Media: Social Media for Nonprofit Beginners

We are Media ( is compiling all you need to go from zero to social media super star. Find resources for nonprofit practitioners just starting out with social media integration. Here you’ll find case studies, worksheets, and links to guide the development of your first social media plan. Start here to plan your strategy, navigate culture, build capacity, keep your team learning, and put those tactics into practice.

Center for Digital Storytelling

The Center for Digital Storytelling is an international nonprofit training, project development, and research organization that assists youth and adults around the world in using digital media tools to craft and record meaningful stories from their lives and share these stories in ways that enable learning, build community, and inspire justice.

YouTube Nonprofit Program

Video is a powerful way to show your organization’s impact and needs and, with a designated “Nonprofit” channel on YouTube, you can deliver your message to the world’s largest online video community.

Blogs on Changing the Mental Health System, Human Rights, and Alternatives

List compiled by MindFreedom International


Techsoup ( is a resource for nonprofits, where organizations can get information on new tools and new technologies, find tutorial webinars, and gain access to donated or discounted software.

Many articles have been written about technology as a double-edged sword. On one hand, we have an unprecedented ability to connect with people and share information. On the other hand, these new technologies are reputed to have resulted in increasing social isolation among many Americans, resulting in a “virtual life” with fewer face-to-face connections. In reality, the impact of technology on our lives is complicated and still evolving, and the jury is still out as to whether the internet is causing greater social isolation. (For more information, see this study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.)

As with all things, moderation is the key. It is prudent to step away from the screen a few times a day to take a walk around the block, go outside and feel the sunshine on your face, or call and make plans to see a good friend. If you are overwhelmed by email, make a decision to limit your online time, and only respond to time-sensitive emails.

Consumer and peer-run organizations should make sure that their technology use does not come to exclude those with more limited access to technology, or literacy issues. Good old-fashioned printed flyers and individual outreach calls can continue to be used in conjunction with email announcements. Conference calls may be necessary for those with limited computer access. Still best, whenever possible, is the in-person meeting, where people can connect face-to-face, whether to plan a program, share a meal, or provide peer support to one another.

Remember, it is not an either-or proposition. Technology is meant to enhance our lives. With balance, it has the capacity to enrich the fabric of our online and “real-life” worlds alike. Enjoy the fruits of being alive in this exciting day and age!