As I finished lunch this past Wednesday, I was checking tweets and saw the above tweet from Bruce Reyes-Chow. Then I started doing some searching through hashtags and people’s tweets, and realized that the news was in fact true: fellow emergent church blogger Gideon Addington had taken his own life.
I didn’t know Gideon personally. I was familiar with his name, we were friends on Facebook through some hyphenmergent connections, and he was following me on Twitter. One thing that is extremely evident after his death is how well-connected he was to so many people all around the world through Twitter/Facebook/Skype and other social media tools.
Gideon’s deep online interactions with people from so many diverse backgrounds is a testament to the man that he was. You can find some personal reflections by folks who knew him in a variety of different ways here, here, here and here. The outpouring of grief, broken hearts, concerns for family and so much more from his online community of virtual friends was overwhelming – and still continues today as there is a #tworship (Twitter Worship) memorial service reflecting on and celebrating the life of #gideony today (from 9am – 9pm PST).
One tweet that stood out to me in all of the sadness and grief of such a tragic situation was from @jonfogle:
Anyone complaining about the superficiality of social networking, e.g. Twitter, wasn’t paying attention today. #gideony
Indeed, there are many who have said that virtual community is NOT real community. And while I understand why some come to that conclusion, and while I would hope that virtual community doesn’t one day become a substitute for the physicality of face-to-face conversations and community, it continues to become more and more evident to me that virtual community IS community. Sure it looks different, it feels different, there are different dynamics involved – but it IS community.
In light of Gideon’s suicide, there are so many people angry, devastated, upset, wondering why…and a large percent of these people are friends of his – virtual friends – who have never been in the same room as him. But these deep relationships have been created and maintained and deepened through Twitter. Yes, Twitter. And Facebook chats…and Skype conversations, and blog posts and all of the things that make up our social media world today.
I grieve the loss of Gideon Addington and the fact that I didn’t get to know him more – whether in person or online. I will pray for his family and all of those whose lives were touched by Gideon.