Social networks are exploding.

In 2016 the number of Internet users in the U.S.  expanded to 286,942,362, representing more than 85.5 percent of the total population.

“More than 40 million Internet users will go online exclusively via mobile device in 2017,” according to eMarketer.com. “That number will reach, 52.3 million by 2021, as people continue to drift from desktops/laptops to mobile devices for internet access.”

No matter how they access the web, the number of new users, including those with little to no previous experience, grows daily.

For those of us who work online, and hang out in social networks, it’s easy to forget what it was like in those first months of using the social web.

We’ve learned how things work, we understand the pace is furiously fast, and we’ve discovered some of the pitfalls and challenges.

Not so for everyone.

Lose the Training Wheels

Remember learning to ride a two-wheeled bike? Watching with envy as the kids without training wheels zipped past you, riding without holding on to the handle bars?

Those daredevils.

Remember how exciting it felt when they took off your training wheels and you teetered off on your own steam, figuring out how to balance, how to go faster, how to slow down or stop abruptly? Remember crashing? The skinned knees and elbows, tear- streaked face and bloody lips?

Riding your bike. Exhilarating, often terrifying–and at times downright painful.

For many, this entry into the online world feels a lot like the early days of learning to ride a two-wheeler. From the weeks and months spent quietly lurking, trying to figure out how it all works, to the first sallies forth out onto the social web; the first tweets, updates, and even blog posts.

Stop Shouting!

MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE NEW TO THIS DIGITAL WORLD DON’T KNOW ABOUT THINGS LIKE POSTING IN ALL CAPS. THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT, TO THE REST OF US, IT SEEMS LIKE THEY ARE SHOUTING.

Until someone tells them.

These people don’t always know how to create a password that isn’t easy to figure out, or why it matters. They don’t realize the dangers of clicking a link to see that video, or that the message from the friend on Facebook, who is stranded and needs money sent to London, is likely fake and may lead to a virus.

Until someone tells them–or they learn the hard way.

Many don’t comprehend the depth and power of the web and its ability to connect people beyond geographic, cultural, and language boundaries. To create bridges between people and concepts; between problems and solutions. To enhance or damage reputations.

Share Your Knowledge

For those of us who live online and love the social web, with its pace, flexibility, vibrancy, and potential, the chance to share what we love comes naturally and often effortlessly. Reaching out to show someone how to dodge certain pitfalls, pointing out the things to avoid and to remember, sharing the shortcuts and the humor is part of the fun of it.

Well, it is for me, and probably for you too, but I see so many short tempered responses aimed at those who are still learning. I often post warnings when I read about a virus that is spreading, or remind followers not to click on a link to see a video, or tweet to let someone know that they’ve been hacked and need to change their password.

More often than not I get snarky comments from people who assume we should all know these things by now.

We don’t though. Not all of us. But those of us who do can help those who don’t.

Some will learn quickly, jumping in enthusiastically, consuming information with voracious appetites. Others will make painful mistakes–over and over again.

Some will walk away and dismiss the social web as having no value, but thankfully for those of us who love it, a new crop will show up bright and early the next day!

A version of this post was first published on Spin Sucks.

“Joe learning to ride a bike” by Lisa Williams is licensed under CC BY 2.0.