A broken heart for the social media community

My friend Trey Pennington, one of the most popular figures on the social web, committed suicide today.

I have been trying to figure out how to deal with this tragedy.  I’ve been pushing it down, pushing it down.  I want it to go away.  But I decided that not writing something would be cowardly and a disservice to a man who has helped me and so many people around the world.

Trey was one of my first mentors on the social web and I tell part of our story in my book The Tao Of Twitter … I also use his story of generous networking support as a best-practice case study in many of my college classes.

I had the pleasure of meeting him in real life several times over the years and we had some really great times together.  I began to get closer to him as he planned to be a keynote speaker at Social Slam, an event I curated and hosted earlier this year.  I didn’t know Trey as well many of his long-time friends, but he felt comfortable enough with our relationship that he visited me again this summer and confided in me some of the deep troubles that I can only assume led to this tragedy.  I promised him that I would be available to him, whenever he needed me. Based on the outpouring of emotion on his Facebook page, there were a ton of people who had made the same offer.  And you know, we meant it.  In the ensuing months, I called him and sent him emails, letting him know I was still there, I was there, I was there.

A few weeks after we met, Trey tried to commit suicide and was hospitalized. He seemed to come out of it OK and he approached his work with an air of confidence, at least through his public persona.  I tried to stay connected with him and when I heard back from him, he assured me that he was on his way back, although he still had some serious, and growing, problems to overcome.

To view his Facebook and Twitter updates, you would think he was fine. He was proud of his speaking career, appreciative of his friends, seemingly excited about an upcoming trip to Europe.

In recent months, I thought it was a little strange he posted photos of himself so often. In a car. In a bus. At a coffee shop. Hauntingly, in front of the bridge that was the site of his first suicide attempt. He said he was losing weight.  But these photos were sending another message.  In reality, he was telling us that he was literally fading away before our eyes.

Trey was simply one of the nicest and most generous people on the planet.  Even when the chemicals in his brain were relentlessly pushing him into overwhelming depression he was thinking of others. They say that suicide is a selfish decision. It doesn’t make sense.  It’s totally confusing. Trey? Selfish? No.

Some of his last Facebook posts and tweets didn’t make sense either. They were not messages from a man about to kill himself, were they?  An hour before he died, he “liked” Jay Baer’s Facebook update about going to a rock concert.  Why wasn’t he asking somebody for help???

Trey is the second person I have known to end his own life.  In both cases, they were literally the most unlikely people ever to do this. You just shake your head and think … No way. No freaking way.

So many questions that will never be answered. So much pain. I’m angry that the chemicals won. That they wouldn’t let him alone long enough to get one moment of clarity … to be able to see clearly enough to consider the implications for his six children. For his baby grandson. He was so proud of that baby.  For the hundreds of people he touched in his community and the thousands of people around who are in shock and are in mourning today. These are people who sincerely loved him and would have been on his doorstep in a heartbeat.  All he had to do was ask.

Oh Trey.  Why?  You are so loved.

From the Suicide Survivors Support Group:

I don’t know why.
I’ll never know why.
I don’t have to know why.

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