I love hanging out with my friends, because they always figure out something that I didn’t know that people don’t know. Ya know? I can usually glean about 4-5 posts from any given Girls Night Out, or as we are calling it now “Book Club”. For those that REALLY know me, you know I’m not an avid reader. Joining a “Book Club” is so far from what I would do on a normal occasion. I like books. I mainly read books that start with “Windows Server 2008: Managing and Maintaining”. It doesn’t leave room for, you know, books that my friends would also want to read. I digress… the question came up about what the @ symbol means when deciphering communication over Facebook. Or, if you happen to come across a friend’s status update that happened to have been posted originally from Twitter and then automatically posted to Facebook, it may look a little strange to you. So let me break it down for you.
The @ means you are talking directly AT someone or some business. In twitter when you write @Tech4Moms, I will see that tweet in a special spot in my Twitter account called “mentions”. This will show me everyone that has mentioned my username and is talking at me, or about me. People have translated this over to Facebook, because in Facebook, comments are not “threaded”. Threaded means that you can see a reply to a comment under and slightly indented to the person they are replying to. In Facebook, the comments are just one big lump under the status update or link or picture. So, if I’m going to respond to a comment that someone else made, it may be hard to tell that I’m responding to a specific person. So people use the @ symbol to respond to a specific person.
The # means you are adding your message to a specific category. Again in Twitter, and now this works in Google+ as well, whenever you add a # (or hashtag) to a word or phrase it becomes clickable. When you click the #keyword it will show you all of the tweets that also have that specific category. If you were keeping up with a TV show in real time, you would follow the # for the TV show, such as #psych. If you were part of a Twitter party, such as the weekly Microsoft Twitter chat you would follow the “hashtag” #win7tech.
Something else you may see is a URL that looks strange. It looks awfully fishy using all those letters and gibberish. Using Twitter you are limited to using 140 characters in any given tweet. This means that a long URL can take up all 140 characters! Twitter, and other places use a URL shortener to make that long ugly URL into a tiny little link that doesn’t take up a lot of space in your Twitter status update. Typically these are safe to click, and there are websites that will let you see the full URL of a shortened URL to see if it’s going to a site that is legitimate.
The last thing will be the texting talk. Again, this is because of the limitation in Twitter’s status characters. In order to make a tweet shorter sometimes you just have to say R instead of are. I try not to do it often, but I will go back and edit some words if I’m over my limit.
So now, when you see someone’s Facebook status that looks like a bunch of gibberish, at least you’ll know what they are saying!
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com