Social Suicide?

No, this is not another commentary on the desperate publicity stunt exhibited by Miley Cyrus and the ensuing media frenzy over whether her reputation will ever recover.

This reflection involves another kind of desperation: the tragic, public suicide of a social media icon who appeared – on screen – to be surrounded by “friends” and “followers.” Sadly, Trey Pennington could not find the real-life human resources to help him combat loneliness and depression. He took his own life on a Sunday morning, leaving six children, a wife, and a successful career behind. He had 100,000+ followers on Twitter, 1,841 likes on Facebook, and was in 831 Google+ circles.

Multiple writers lamented how so many knew his persona, but so few truly knew him personally.

Blogger Marissa Gagnier reflected, “In social media, we have a tendency to hide our true feelings and post breaking news instead. Our “image” comes before our life …

But wait. Hasn’t social media brought us new ways to “connect” and “engage?”

Even social media “strategist” Jay Baer was left rethinking his philosophy that “interacting with more people is inherently better than interacting with fewer people … today, I’m no longer convinced.”

Baer’s conclusion? Despite all hopes, technology and our use of it has failed, fundamentally, to bring us closer together. In fact, it may be driving us father apart, as we know more and more people, but know less and less about each of them,” he said.

The real shock? Pennington died this weekend … in 2011. So I ask: Have these discoveries changed anything since then?

~ Rachel E. Dewey

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3 Responses to Social Suicide?

  1. Jay says:

    When we try to be too social we forget to be personal.

  2. Jill says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. It really had an impact on me. It is incredibly sad, but it does help to remind us once again how fragile life is. I don’t know much about Pennington, but he may be one of the millions of people who are challenged by mental illness.

    According to a report on an ABC News blog, “About 5 percent of Americans have suffered from such severe mental illness that it interfered with day-to-day school, work or family.” (

    In terms of “engagement,” it will always be true that a relationship with greater depth or interaction has a greater connection. It’s not realistic for companies or “products” to have intimate relationships with every member of their target audiences. However, meaningful engagement — with content that is important to the target audience — will build this type of social relationship.

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting lots of Facebook friends and Twitter followers for your business or product, but it’s a mistake for a marketer to think that they truly “know” all of these followers. Despite the proliferation of social media tools in our world, the use of these sites will never replace the important, one-on-one real life relationships.

    As you said in your blog, it’s incredibly tragic that Pennington couldn’t connect with the people in his real life to help him combat his depression.