Are we getting better at this?

I started writing this column in June 2014, and I haven’t missed a week.

Yes, I’m patting myself on the back. That’s a small accomplishment for this big guy.

Nearly three years and a few extended deadlines later, I’m in a reflection phase.

Are we getting better at using social media or, as a friend recently lamented, will it be the downfall of society? Ironically, he posted his little missive to Twitter.

Thanks to the amazing and often forgiving editors at The Vindicator, I’ve been able to share some thoughts on life with social media and how it’s changed us, for better or worse.

The best part is that some of those thoughts have come directly from you – friends, followers, readers. Thank you.

In that first column (Adam Earnheardt is a Shameless Self-Promoter, June 29, 2014), I shared strategies for social media self-branding.

We’re constantly showcasing our individual identities online. In many of the same ways corporations are building brands and cultivating new customers online, we’re building an audience and sharing our thoughts on politics, sports, family and friends, dogs and cats.

As I noted in that column, we’re not always aware we are “self-branding” until it is too late. Some times we say or post something deemed inappropriate that causes us to lose friends. (To which one reader responded, “Well, they probably weren’t my friends anyway.”)

Losing friends is bad. But for some, the consequences may be far worse. Just in the last two weeks we’ve seen celebrities and political pundits lose jobs, endorsement deals and fans because of misguided social media posts.

Based on those examples, your answer to the question posed above (“Are we getting better?”) would probably lean toward that of my Twitter friend, prophesying about social media and the end of days.

I’m more optimistic than that. I like to think that we’re getting better at using social media to share with people who we are, who we think we are, or who we want to be.

I spoke to a group of residents at Shepherd of the Valley in Poland last week about creating their own social media identities. Some were already on Facebook, but others were looking to connect with the world in new ways.

One resident said, “I have 14 grandchildren, and all of them are online. I’m going to make one of these Facebook things and watch them freak out. They think I’m inappropriate at Thanksgiving. Wait [until] they see me on [Facebook].”

Another resident said, “I have so many recipes, but no one to share them with, and Facebook doesn’t seem like the right place.” I suggested building her brand on Pinterest.

These two users are evidence to me that social media is still a fun and interesting place to learn about the world and share a little about our place in it.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @adamearn.

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