Mark Schaefer had a post.
Geoff Livingston had a post.
Jay Baer had a post.
Gini Dietrich had a post.
The death of someone of Trey Pennington’s stature was bound to make waves around the internet. The circumstances of his death turned the waves into a tsunami.
Within these posts questions were raised…
Are internet “friendships” real friendships?
How well do we really know the people we “know” online?
Are online personas hiding the real person behind the blog?
I never really had any interaction with Trey. That is why I think I try and view this situation objectively. More so than those who knew Trey online, or even on a personal level.
Personas Are Necessary
Unfortunately you can’t get away from having a persona online – especially if you are present in social media for the sake of networking for a business purpose.
I’ve had days where I felt like absolute shit, everyone has. But you can’t let that come across in your writing.
You have to set that aside because, let’s face it, emotions scare people – unless they are emotions filled with sunshine and butterflies. Your potential customers want someone happy and positive handling their business processes.
Your blog isn’t just you. It’s your brand.
How Well Do We Really Know Anyone?
As evidenced by Mark Schaefer’s reaction to the tragedy, the first instinct is to think “what could I have done?” or “Why didn’t I see this coming?”.
Jay Baer reflected on the tragedy with the realization that he doesn’t know his “internet friends” as well as he knows his friends of 30 years.
But in light of what happened, what are the people that personally knew Trey, and have known him for 30 years, thinking at this moment.
Were they expecting something like this to happen? Are they questioning why they didn’t see it coming? Are they thinking to themselves that they didn’t really know Trey as well as they thought they did?
It is easy to think that you didn’t really know someone just because most, or all, of your interaction came online. But the people that were physically in Trey’s life don’t have that excuse.
Did they see it coming? Why didn’t they do anything about it? Or were they as blindsided as Trey’s “internet friends” and left thinking “I didn’t really know him…”
Are “Internet Friendships” Real?
Sure the knowledge of, or connection with, your “internet friends” isn’t equal to that of your childhood friends that you may have known for 30 years.
But that is not necessarily a function of the medium through which you interact, but rather the time frame of the interaction.
Social media hasn’t been around long enough to have made 30-year-long connections with people. But if it was, I’m sure you would know your “internet friends” pretty well. And over such a time span, you would probably have more than a few face-to-face meetings.
I haven’t been at this for that long, but I’ve already had a face-to-face meeting with Jacob Sokol.
Danny Iny offered to take me out for a beer tour when he learned that I’m a fan of the good stuff. And if I am ever in his neck of the woods, I will definitely be taking him up on that offer.
If I was still in Cleveland right now (or if Content Marketing World was a week later) I would have attempted to at least get lunch with Marcus Sheridan.
Speaking of Marcus, when he posted a video of his youngest daughter on his blog, “internet friend” John Falchetto sent a gift for her. I wonder how many “real friends” did the same.
These may not be signs of true friendship depending on how you define it, but they are signs of seeds being planted. True friendships have to start somewhere.
The Bottom Line
If the feeling of loss is real, as it clearly is in this case, then the connection with that person was real – even if it was mostly digital.
Your Two Cents:
Do you think that friendships created through the internet are real (or) can real friendships be created through social media?