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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