Monday, September 5, 2011

Now Will Everyone Stop Believing The Hype Of Social Media Rock Stars?

I never heard of Trey Pennington. Apparently, the social media crowd loved him. He killed himself over the weekend. He suffered from depression.

To those that don't understand depression, it is (no pun intended) a deadly disease. I served on a non-profit board with a wonderful lawyer, loved by many, and just a great guy. He always offered to help on whatever project we were proposing, and was always glad to see you.

He hung himself one day.

Depression is not being sad, sitting at home complaining, or otherwise feeling sorry for yourself. It is a real, chemical imbalance, that can easily be hidden behind a smile and offer to help you create your dreams with a marketing plan.

There is this vicious debate raging on the internet now between those who say Mr. Pennington had "all these 'friends' on social media," so why couldn't he turn to someone for help? This is the argument being made by people who say the whole social media thing is a joke and that no one has many "real" connections - people they can actually call a "friend," against those that claim social media is the end all be all in life. The social media group - those who loved him, knew him, and say depression is a silent killer that only shows itself when it's too late - they want everyone to stop making this an argument about social media "friends."

The argument is pointless in this situation, and misses the mark.

While it's cute to argue that "hey, what about all those 'friends' on twitter, couldn't you turn to one of them," that's better left for revelations of financial desperation and other social problems. Depression transcends relationships, online or offline.

The real point of this story is something the social media rock stars will not discuss - the notion that someone's created brand on the internet is never the whole story.

Many social media rock stars have no jobs, no income, huge debt, and nothing more than a web presence and a following on twitter. You would never know that, because that's all hidden, no one asks hard questions (especially when faced with the promise of wealth and fame by someone who has neither), and it's a negative discussion which is prohibited by the happysphere on the internet who only respond to congratulations, thank yous and "you're so awesome" type compliments.

The lesson from Trey Pennington is simple - stop assuming that because someone created a web presence and says things that are attractive to you and seemingly can make your life better, that any of it is true.

It's usually not. None of it.

I extend my condolences to the family and friends of Trey Pennington, and hope that at least one of you reading this will realize that your shock is only due to your inability to face reality.

Non-anonymous comments welcome. Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


shg said...

I have to disagree that the argument is pointless. Indeed, there is a very harsh lesson here. No matter what the pretense one creates on the internet, real life remains and can't be altered by cute twits and a perpetually perky persona.

Trey Pennington, to the end, maintained the inperturbable internet personna of a marketer. It only served to mask his human reality. His death is as strong and clear a message as any social media faker can learn, that no amount of twitter followers or social media adoration is going to make your reality go away.

Don't pass up the opportunity to gain something here. No one should die in vain.

My Law License said...

The pointless argument is whether social media friends are "real" friends. The real argument is whether we blindly accept someone's online persona is the truth

Dave said...

Sadly, it seems both camps are missing the point. Social media has nothing to do with it. Just as Pennington seemed to "have it all" in his on-line persona, Brian, your friend seemed to "have it all" in real life. The _appearance_ of success and/or happiness didn't save either one of them.

It's not a question of whether or not his on-line social media profile was true. It may well have been. Suppose he *had* achieved personal success? That would not have saved him from depression. Anyone who thinks so does not undertand depression. The same is true if his on-line persona were just a house of cards--that doesn't cause depression either. Not clinical depression. That kind of depression isn't situational.

No one's life should be lost in vain. But the lessons here should be about the ominous and often misunderstood issue of depression. It has *nothing* to do with social media. Nothing.

My Law License said...


Except the premise of my friend the lawyer's life was not an online "I have all the answers to make you successful" type presence. The point, again, is some people need to stop taking online-and offline personas-as truth.

Dave Newton said...

[...] your shock is only due to your inability to face reality

The two are mutually-exclusive? We can't be shocked someone killed themselves and acknowledge the reality of depression?

That's a ridiculous thing to say.

My Law License said...

I guess it all depends on why you're shocked.

Logan S. said...

STOP TALKING LIKE A BUNCH OF ROBOTS AND REALIZE THAT TREY WAS SOMEONE'S FRIEND! MY friend; a zillion other people's friend AND loved one. A dad of six. He has a huge community of real people who loved him and still love him.

Everyone has pains and secrets and things they hide. Some pains are greater than others. Trey was a very successful person in his work. His personal life and social media persona were not intrinsically linked. Don't use his "story" to make a point. There's not one there.

My Law License said...

Logan, I'm sorry for your loss, I'm also sorry you don't see a point here. The point is that we should never assume what we see is the whole story.