Social Media: Awesome and Devastating

Mourning the loss of a man I never met. The news came in a text message from a friend and was soon confirmed through conversations online. Sounds far fetched, but in the time of Social Media we have the opportunity to connect with so many individuals we may have never known otherwise.

Dr. Chris Raines, Meat Science Professor at Penn State, died in a car accident on Sunday at the age of 29. I had never met the man, yet the news still brought a knot in my gut. Other than an occasional mention on Twitter or a Like/Comment on Facebook, we didn’t have a lot of interaction. I was one of those silent followers of his blogs, and often referenced his stuff when questions arose about the meat we eat. Yet I admired the guy for his knowledge and approach to education. But mostly I think it was the passion for his work and life that drew my attention. It was pretty evident if you ever stopped by his blog or read some of his tweets. The man known as @ITweetMeat on twitter had that effect on many people as evidenced by the #itweetmeat conversations in response to his untimely death.

Funny isn’t it? I take this opportunity to step back and look at the impact Social Media has on the connections I make. Most days I think it’s awesome to have so many connections and networking throughout the world in the palm of my hand. Social Media allows me to know people, make professional and personal connections with people I may never meet, yet it is a real friendship. Real connections.

Devastating as Chris’ death may seem now, his passion and enthusiasm for sharing the science of agriculture will live on. And at the root of that means doing so with genuine interest. I didn’t know Dr. Raines as well as many others, but I still feel the loss for what he accomplished and what was ahead. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and those close to him.

Appreciate the relationships and friendships you make with others, whether online or in person, because you may never realize how real they are until it’s too late. Rest in peace Dr. Chris Raines.

Every day we make it, we’ll make it the best we can.

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  1. I woke up at 1 this morning thinking about this – how social media has expanded my contacts and friends in ways that never would have happened otherwise. I was especially struck with the reality that when something happens – both good and bad things – to my online community, it matters exactly in the same way it matters in my everyday life. It’s a very real loss, even if I’ve never met the people I talk with on a regular basis.

    I wasn’t sure how to say what I was thinking while I laid there staring at the ceiling so I was thankful to see you did it for me.

  2. Living in remote rural America, we do not always have the luxury of being with friends. Social Media has filled that void, that need to seek out other people…to learn, to laugh, and to share our ag experiences with. Your piece hit home, and spoke to so many of us that tweet back and forth….never having met….yet very connected. Chris, itweetmeat, always made me laugh…I was one of the “lurkers” too. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I never would have met Chris Raines if not for AgChat – and that would have been a shame. There are so many I value in input, opinion and, yes, real friendship. I still keep wishing it wasn’t true – that he isn’t really gone. There’s so much still to do – and that falls to all of us I guess to keep it going. Thank you Ryan for this and all you do.

  4. Very nicely said, Ryan. The world we live in today is so different from just a few years ago. The connections we make on SM are as real as those face to face. Chris and I shared many conversations about my hometown at Kansas State University, where he received his Masters degree. We agreed and disagreed about topics in the beef industry, and I enjoyed having him encourage individual thinking. I met him online many times, but only a handful of times in person, yet he was an influence in my life. He will be missed by many. I hope his family sees the outpouring of support online! Thanks for your comments.

  5. Nicely said Ryan. As much as I wonder about the value whole social media phenomenon, I have to admit it has given me contacts, put me back in contact with those I’ve lost touch with and kept me in contact with people and friends I would not have been able to a mere 20 years ago (OK That may nearly be a lifetime for you but its just over a third for me!)

  6. So true, Ryan. I felt the same way yesterday. I only met Chris a handful of times but was as shaken by his death as I have been by any I have experienced in my adult life. I think part of it was his age but reading the reaction of so many people whose lives he touched, from family, friends and current and former students to people he had never even met face-to-face just left me with a profound sense of loss. We need more people like Chris in our lives and the best tribute we can pay is to be more like him in our daily interactions with people we meet, on and offline.

  7. Ryan, an excellent post. It is amazing what social media has done for us in the far flung reaches of the world geographically. At the same time it has allowed us in agriculture to connect with people in ways we never thought possible just a few short years ago. God Bless Chris and his family during this difficult time and may all of you that tout agriculture and feeding the world truly be blessed as we stumble through this ever changing life.

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