Need help with customization of the homepage

Hi,  I am sure you must have read these lines a million times before but here it goes again.

I am a non techie newbie and trying to set up a community social network. For privacy I have removed the site activity to be displayed to non members but the homepage has become even more boring. I tried using the Facebook home page plugin, it looks good but copied.

1. Is there a way I can just upload an Image to a folder and it can show up on the left side of the login area. Attaching a screenshot of my current homepage.

2. How can I change the welcome to <my website name> message.?

3. Which plug in will help the links show videos or images on the post / the wire? Currently only the url shows as it was posted?

4. How can I have the user go to the Posts page automatically once he / she logs in?

Thanks in advance