A 31-year-old woman in Taiwan broadcast her suicide using the social site Facebook. Her death is only the latest of deaths foretold or broadcast through social media, which raises the question: why did no one intervene?
Facebook has been the site for many people to leave final messages for friends and family before killing themselves. In January, Cynthia Lee left a suicide note on her Facebook page, writing, "I can't handle this…anymore. Mom here I come."
She then took her own life.
Now, in this new case, Claire Lin used the site to describe her death. When she began posting pictures of how she was taking her life, through fumes, people wrote messages trying to convince her to reconsider.
"Be calm, open the window, put out the charcoal fire, please, I beg you," Chung Hsin wrote.
Unfortunately no one thought to call the police and instead kept track of Lin's final moments on the site.
"The fumes are suffocating," Lin wrote. "They fill my eyes with tears. Don't write me anymore. Too late. My room is filled with fumes. I just posted another picture. Even while I'm dying, I still want Facebook. Must be Facebook poison. Haha (sic)."
Then Lin succumbed to the fumes. Authorities later found her dead in her home, and now many are asking why no one thought to call for help. Facebook has posted the following advice with regards to suicidal comments on its pages.
"If you have encountered a direct threat of suicide on Facebook, please immediately contact law enforcement or a suicide hotline."
Just last year, Facebook took action and launched an instant-messaging system that allows suicidal users to connect with a trained counselor.
"One of the big goals here is to get the person in distress into the right help as soon as possible," Fred Wolens, Facebook's public policy manager, told the Associated Press.
Wolens also noted that it was crucial for friends and users to pay attention to one another's status updates (the means of communicating on Facebook).
"The only people who will have a really good idea of what's going on is your friends, so we're encouraging them to speak up and giving them an easy and quick way to get help," suggested the site.
Numerous studies have linked Facebook with an increased rate of depression and anxiety. These studies, performed by the Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have led to the recommendation for Facebook users to maintain loving, physical relationships with family and friends. Lin used the media site to reach out for help instead of turning to trusted friends who may have been able to get her help.
But there is still a tendency for people to merely observe and watch in horror rather than react to the warning signs and posts.
"People may have doubts about what they see on the Internet because of its virtual nature and fail to take action on it," Chai Ben-rei, a sociologist at Taiwan's Feng Chia University, told the Associated Press.