Don't Blame Facebook for Woman's 'Live' Suicide

Rant 20

A Taiwanese woman committed suicide this month live on Facebook while chatting with friends. Not one of her friends informed the cops and the resulting anger is now targeted at the number one social media site in the world -- Facebook.

It's no surprise. For all the millions of people who love Facebook, it always seems like there are at least 1,000 people who hate it. Those who hate Facebook like to blame it -- and other social media -- for 99 percent of society's ills, but Facebook connects people. It brings social lives to isolated people and it bridges distances.

It doesn't change human nature. And the fact is, Claire Lin -- the woman who committed suicide -- isn't the first person to die in a "public" space and not be helped.

Nearly 50 years ago, dozens of people heard stabbing victim Kitty Genovese screaming for help in Queens, New York, and they did nothing to prevent it. It wasn't happening in their computer or online or on television. It was happening in real life. And they did nothing.

Facebook is not to blame for human nature. A recent Salon piece talked about this and why people in cities are "meaner" and it isn't because we city folk don't care. The fact is, when watching a crime or a major event take place, many of us can't process it. Imagine a robot on overload with steam coming out its ears shouting: "This does not compute." Yeah. That's us.

We assume there is an easy explanation. We assume that no one WOULD really commit suicide on Facebook, so there is probably another explanation.

Lin's friends did take her seriously, it seems. They told her to get help and they offered to help. But no one called the police. It's impossible to know what she was like. But as someone who has my fair share of dramatic friends with attention-desiring status updates, I know I would probably not call the police if they had some status that seemed improbably dramatic and attention seeking.

Hindsight is 20/20 and maybe I can say NOW that I would. But I know myself and I am honest enough to say that, depending on the person, I might say nothing at all.

Is that bad? Is that Facebook's fault? Does this say something about me as a person? I know the answers to these questions: No, no, and no. I know I would look at that update and think that person was having a bad day, not that they were actually going to hurt themselves.

Now, in Lin's case, maybe I would have. She was posting photos and being very clear about the process. But I ignore a lot of drama on Facebook every day. One has to, after all. This doesn't make me -- or anyone else -- apathetic or cold. It just makes us human. We believe the simplest explanation is often the right one. And sometimes that has devastating consequences.

Do you think Facebook is to blame here?


Image via Thos003/Flickr



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Maias... MaiasMommy619

No, I honestly don't blame Facebook...Facebook never went up to the girl and told her to commit suicide online...its the girls own fault and to point fingers at the internet or even other people is not going to change the actions SHE committed. Really and truly  I don't think a lot of people would have done anything...not too many people would take it seriously that a friend is stating she will take her own life on facebook...99% of people would think that its just an attention seeking ploy and think nothing of it...unfortunately she did take her life online but maybe now with this story we know better?

Jaime Swift Sundin

How is facebook to blame???  She was a trouble woman who needed help if her friends really knew her they would have got help for her.  I think i would blame the friends before i would ever blame facebook.


Joan Neville Buffa

I'm sure the woman was sick to want to kill herself, but to have the world watch is beyond sick.  FB and Twitter have made people famous, it's not their fault these things happen, it's our fault for allowing such sites to rule our lives.

Lorrie Cook

She used Facebook as her forum for getting attention. People who are serious about suicide generally don't announce it first unless they are wanting someone to intervene. Or they may talk about it for awhile and then they stop and get really happy. The happiness is because they have formulated their plan to off themselves and feel content that their pain will soon be over.  I don't know her story or what method she used, but I have to wonder if she really intended to kill herself, or was just reaching out for help. Very sad story though. It's a shame the friends didn't call 911 and take it seriously. But as you said, maybe she was always dramatic and they didn't take her as seriously as they should have.

chels... chelsieb84

Why would it be facebooks fault?  It's not like someone from facebook is watching every single thing that happens at every single moment.

This is so sad.  

starl... starlight1968

No if it wasn't Facebook she'd have found another forum to use...

Mary Davis

No, it is not Facebook's fault that this woman decided to end her life.  She had to already be suffering some form of mental illness.

Mama_... Mama_Kling

How could they call police? Maybe she wasn't home. Facebook chat can be accessed anywhere, just like Facebook itself.  I think people are looking for a scapegoat because they couldn't do anything to help her and are heartbroken at her actions.

Melan... Melanie420

how is facebook the cause of a woman killing herself, this is way different than a woman being stabbed and no one helping, this woman killed herself

Lamargo L. Petersen

When a person decides to "leave" there is nothing anyone can do other than physically wrestle them to the ground and put them in a straight jacket! If you are not in that physical place you can do nothing.shrugging

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