COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Social media websites have changed the way the world connects, and it appears they have also changed how we can connect once we're gone.
Rick Stilwell was known to most online as "@RickCaffeinated."
"It started out as a joke because Rick loved coffee," said Rick's wife, Vicki. It was over coffee that the 44 year-old loved talking and teaching others about social media. He also worked in social media development at Palmetto GBA for several years.
"He was the person among our set of friends that got everyone into blogging, and MySpace, and Facebook and Twitter," said James Kirk, of Rick's favorite coffee spot, Jamestown Coffee.
Jennifer Bailey Bergen of GraySail, a content management service provider in Columbia echoes Kirk's sentiments. She specializes in social media and says she learned the ins and outs from Rick. "Rick was all about conversation and interaction and person to person idea exchange and understanding," said Bergen.
So those used to engaging with Rick, like Bergen and Kirk, were never prepared for the morning of January 11th, 2013. Rick died unexpectedly of a heart condition while driving.
"I personally never saw a day where I would be around and Rick would not," said Bergen.
Eager to do something, Rick's friends, whether online or in person, planned a memorial service for him at Jamestown Coffee the day after his death. "We just wanted to toast our friend," said Bergen.
Rick's wife, Vicki, decided to go to the toast, as well, but before she'd ever arrive she'd get a message she never expected. "I was looking to see who was tweeting and who was going to be there just to let a few people know I was going to slip in quietly, and suddenly across my feed, I see a tweet from my husband," said Vicki.
Those already at the service saw it, too. "I was sitting right where you are and somebody else was speaking, and Rick tweeted," said Bergen.
The message from beyond stirred all kinds of emotions. "I laughed, I cried because I was surprised, but not really," said Vicki. "Because if anybody would have had tweets scheduled and be prepared for that, it would be my husband."
Rick was one of several users who chose to pre-schedule tweets. It turns out they were always part of his social media strategy. "He would go back and re-use his content to drive conversation," said Bergen.
But Rick's tweet during his memorial service seemed all too appropriate. It said ‘Think Again: Working Together' and linked to a blog he wrote about collaborating through social media.
"I just thought it was some sort of divine message in a strange sort of way," said Kirk. "A way of connecting again with Rick one last time."
But it wouldn't be the last time, in fact, @RickCaffeinated has tweeted every five days since his passing.
"We have no idea when they will stop," said Vicki. Vicki's even reached out to other social media guru's like Rick. "He used a program within Hootsuite, but no one that I know of that has looked at it so far has been able to figure out what he's used or how long it's going to be on for," she added.
However, Vicki says she's not sure if she wants to know when it will end.
"I think if and when it stops that it's going to actually make me a little sad," said Vicki. "Because we have different family members who look for [the tweets], who are excited to see which ones are going to come next."
Regardless of if or when that time comes, social media was Rick's passion and even after life it's still giving him a platform to connect. "He's still poking us, he's still saying think about what you're doing, think twice, speak one time," said Bergen.
He leaves a legacy through the ever-developing digital world with a message that is otherwise timeless. "Be a person who enjoys being helpful and enjoys meeting other helpful people," said Rick in a message he recorded on video before his passing. "Because the more we help each other, the better off we'll be."
Rick leaves behind his wife Vicki, two high-school aged children Trace and Cammi, and several other extended family and friends.
You can still follow Rick on twitter @RickCaffeinated, and if the pattern of his tweets continues, he's expected to tweet again today.
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