If you are familiar with Bit Rebels, you know that between @mistygirlph and I, we’ve written several dozen articles about social media friendships over the past two years. There are so many of them, I couldn’t even begin to give you all the links. The ones that were the most fun for me to write are 7 Steps: The Evolution Of A Social Media Friendship and The Proof That Social Media Friendships Are Real.
To those of us who have been in social media for a while now, it’s obvious that we meet people online and become close friends, but yet, that still doesn’t mean everyone understands it. People still tweet me almost every week and ask me questions about it, and about how to develop real relationships in that realm. I’m certainly no expert, but I try to help whenever I can.
Even just yesterday my friend @RosenetTV sent me a tweet after he saw me tweeting with one of my friends. He said that he thinks online friendships are fascinating, and I agree. They can be magical, powerful and very special. My friend @hamutalm, who I met through @HilzFuld sent us a tweet to both of us today that read, “Content comes and goes, friendships last.” With all the positive and joyful parts of social media friendships, it’s hard to believe there could be a negative aspect. However, after yesterday, I’ve spotted a major flaw in social media friendships.
As most of you know, @TreyPennington took his own life in the parking lot of his church Sunday morning. I found out the news when my friend @dmbrown111 sent me a DM a few hours after it happened. Trey was an incredible human being, and his death is certainly a wake up call for many people. If you haven’t heard this news yet, you can read about it on this heartbreaking post by @KrisColvin entitled Today, My Little World Changed.
Getting back to the social media aspect of this, Trey was a man with over 111,000 Twitter followers. If you look at his twitter stream, there is nothing there to indicate what his plans were, other than his haunting last tweet. He was part of a group of people on Twitter, which I’m also in, who only tweet in a positive way. What I mean by that is, I have over 58,000 followers, and I know they look to me for good content. They do not want to hear me vent when I’ve had a bad day or anything like that, so I never tweet about those kinds of things.
I can name at least 100 other people on Twitter who are also in the “club” where we always appear to be on, regardless of what is happening behind the scenes. I’m questioning that now, and the depth of some of those online relationships. Even with 111,000 followers, Trey obviously felt all alone. He was known for being selfless and honorable, so part of me understands why he didn’t reach out. I don’t know how to look at this without comparing it to my own Twitter life, and in a twisted way, it makes sense. I mean, why would anyone confide in thousands of people when we are feeling blue? It would certainly seem out of character to suddenly start tweeting that way.
Depression is a very dangerous disease because many people are able to control it, so you’d never know what they are struggling with on the inside. Suicide is not something that just happens to crazy people. It can happen to anyone once they start going down that path. If you look in the mirror, can you honestly tell me that you’ve never thought it would be easier to be gone? Ever? I have. I was fourteen years old and babysitting two kids. Once they went to sleep, I walked into the family’s kitchen, opened the dishwasher, took out a large knife, and carved into my wrists very deeply. There was blood everywhere. I passed out. Does that make me a bad person? I hope not.
I’m just saying, how well do we all really know each other? This very powerful post written a few days ago by @PaulBritPhoto touches on the same topic. It’s called the Fragility Of Life & Importance Of True Friends. As @JessicaNorthey told me yesterday on the phone, social media is many times social MEdia… ME ME ME.
The point of this post, which is waaaaaay too long, is simply to say, let’s try to take the ME out of social MEdia and really be there for each other when it counts. Let’s try to be REAL friends through thick and thin. Social media is here to stay, and it’s conceivable that many of us will be friends for years and years to come. Let’s not judge each other in those insensitive moments. Let’s try to learn a lesson from Trey Penningon’s tragic death. This is nobody’s fault. We don’t know what was going on in his head. However, I do know that we are all human. Let’s not remove that human aspect from social media. If you follow hashtag #RIPTrey, you’ll see the outpouring of love for him and his family. I can only wonder if this would have made a difference for him if he saw these tweets before yesterday morning.
Trey lived in South Carolina, which is where I grew up. He lived in Greenville, and I sometimes visit that city. He always said that next time I was there, we would meet. I’m sorry to say that day never came. You won’t be forgotten Trey, and I hope you are at peace now. Thank you for being such a bright light for everyone while you were here. We loved you then, and we still love you now.