I lost a friend yesterday. Trey Pennington of Greenville — father, husband, grandfather, speaker, teller of stories and launcher of Social Media Clubs — could no longer fight the darkness and took his own life. Twitter and Facebook echoed with the stunned and shocked responses from his friends, acquaintances and those who had been helped by this kind and gentle man.
Less than 24 hours later, I’m already seeing the first jabs coming online, talking about how this loss may have been caused by The Interwebs. “Online Relationships just aren’t real.” “We need to connect with actual people.” “This Social Media stuff is all junk.”
What complete bunk.
If you know Trey, you know his demons were in the real world. People who deserted him, institutions that turned their back on him after years. I’m not giving details because he wouldn’t want me to.
But the online community — we loved him unconditionally. He had hundreds of thousands of people who knew him as a kind, helpful, thoughtful soul. He spoke around the world — most recently, here in Columbia a couple of weeks ago at my request. He did it at no charge. (A man who could command thousands of dollars for a single keynote appearance.)
We chatted, and put off dinner for another day because he was rushing home to work on a presentation the next day. We knew we had time, because he was feeling great. He’d lost weight, gotten tanned, and had all his dark demons at bay.
Then he returned to the real world. And it killed him.
I don’t doubt there are problems in the online world. But I’m not going to let people sully the legacy of my friend with this kind of shit. He made social media a better place for so many people, and we’re all worse off now that he’s no longer with us.
I hope there’s really good wireless up there on that cloud, buddy.