Another day, another heartbreaking, morbid story about death and Facebook. Claire Lin, a 31-year-old woman from Taiwan, killed herself earlier this month… while chatting with nine of her Facebook friends.
It was Lin’s birthday, and she was depressed because her boyfriend wasn’t there to celebrate with her. She set a charcoal barbecue to burn in her room and slowly asphyxiated from the smoke, describing the process to her online buddies. She even took cell phone pics of the smoke fumes in the room and the barbecue burning alongside her stuffed animals.
It sounds as if Lin didn’t have a support system in Taiwan, because her family wasn’t aware of her depression, and the nine friends she was chatting with didn’t contact the authorities to go to her house and save her. That could be because they didn’t know where she lived, which isn’t uncommon when your Facebook friends span the globe.
Over the course of about an hour, Lin talked to friends who begged her to stop. One tried to appeal to her rationally: “Be calm, open the window, put out the charcoal fire, please, I beg you.” But she wrote back, “The fumes are suffocating. They fill my eyes with tears. Don’t write me anymore.”
I hate to say that I feel like there’s a poetry to Lin’s words because it might trivialize the event, but her messages were translated from Chinese, so there is a stilted quality to them. Yet you can still hear her pain, especially in her final words:
“Too late. My room is filled with fumes. I just posted another picture. Even while I’m dying, I still want FB. Must be FB poison. Haha.”
It’s easy to dismiss people who commit suicide in such a public forum as mentally ill and attention-seeking. But in Claire Lin’s case, I think that she was in a horrible place and needed friends to help her go. In no way am I condoning her actions, and my heart goes out to her grieving family—all I meant was that talking to her friends until the end may have been a rare comfort.