My Friend Wasn’t Killed By Social Media

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.



  1. Colin Beveridge says

    I’m really sorry for your loss, Dick.

    For once, I agree with you completely. I’ve suffered from depression and it’s not social media that kills people, or violent video games, or shitty music. It’s an awful, insidious, invisible disease of the brain that nobody wants to talk about.

  2. Judy Dunn says

    My sentiments exactly. You know, if Trey had been, say owner of a small local retail store, no one would be saying that it’s all those offline interactions with customers and friends that killed him. It matters not what you do for a living, how you market yourself and who you talk to and through which channels. When depression hits, it can have a devastating impact. As Colin said, it IS an insidious disease that no one wants to talk about. And I think that prevents people from getting help when they need it. And even if they do get help, which it sounds like Trey did, it isn’t always enough.

    Thanks you for saying this, publicly, on your blog, Dick. Trey was lucky to have a friend like you. Thinking about Trey and his family today.

  3. Kurt Scholle says

    I had the good fortune of meeting Trey earlier this year. I had known him a bit on Twitter and a mutual friend invited me to go to dinner with a group of people at a conference in Orlando. It was a wonderful evening and experience. I thought Trey was an awesome guy and his passing is such a huge loss.

  4. Kim Brame says

    Dick you are right this had NOTHING to do with social media and everything to do with someone ripping your real world life and family apart. This causes depression in any NORMAL person=GRIEF+loss of love=Depression. What angers me the most is a place that you should be able to turn to…a church turns it’s back on you. I am heart broken for his children, but those REAL WORLD adults that jerked his life out from under him and now hide in the shadows they have much to ponder over. The out pouring of admiration, respect and friendship that Trey has been shown through social media speaks to the kind of man that he was in the REAL and SOCIAL MEDIA worlds. Trey, I pray with all my heart that you are in a better place and that God welcomed you home to his kingdom which has nothing to do with a brick building made by men.