31-year-old Claire Lin committed suicide on her birthday, March 18, while on Facebook. Nine of her Facebook friends begged her not to kill herself as she chatted to them live on Facebook, giving them a running commentary of her own suicide. Some of them tried to track her down on their own, but none of them alerted the authorities.
She died of asphyxiation after inhaling poisonous fumes. The whole episode lasted 67 minutes, according to the Facebook logs. It may have been difficult for friends to know where she was given that Facebook can be accessed from almost anywhere nowadays.
Lin was reportedly unhappy because her boyfriend was ignoring her, and had failed to return home to be with her on her birthday. He found her body the following morning and alerted her family, members of which reported the suicide soon after her death but were unaware of the online conversations that accompanied it.
One friend told Lin: "Be calm, open the window, put out the charcoal fire, please, I beg you." According to CBS News, Lin replied: "The fumes are suffocating. They fill my eyes with tears. Don't write me anymore."
Lin's last words, in Chinese, were: "Too late. My room is filled with fumes. I just posted another picture. Even while I'm dying, I still want FB (Facebook). Must be FB poison. Haha." The Taiwanese woman posted pictures from her mobile phone for her Facebook friends. One featured a charcoal barbecue burning next to two stuffed animals and another showed the room filled with fumes.
Late last year, Facebook teamed up with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to help anyone who is contemplating suicide. Users can instantly start a Facebook Chat session with a crisis counselor. If a Facebook friend spots a suicidal thought on someone's profile, that person can report it to Facebook by clicking a link next to the comment. Facebook will then send an e-mail to the person who posted the suicidal comment.
In situations like this one, however, Facebook recommends alerting the authorities directly.
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Claire Lin and our hearts go out to her family and friends," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "This case serves as a painful reminder of how people can help others who are in distress or need assistance. We encourage them to notify us, and we work with third party support groups including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Taiwan Suicide Prevention Center to reach out to people who may need help. In the case of an emergency, please call the appropriate authorities immediately."
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