Claire Lin killed herself on her 31st birthday, March 18, and family members who reported her suicide were unaware of the Facebook conversations that accompanied it, Taipei police officer Hsieh Ku-ming said.
Lin’s last Facebook entries show her chatting with nine friends, alerting them to her gradual asphyxiation. One picture uploaded from her mobile phone depicts a charcoal barbecue burning next to two stuffed animals. Another shows the room filled with fumes.
One friend identified as Chung Hsin, told Lin, “Be calm, open the window, put out the charcoal fire, please, I beg you.”
Lin replied: “The fumes are suffocating. They fill my eyes with tears. Don’t write me anymore.”
A few of the Facebook friends chatting with her tried to stop her and track her down on their own, but none called police. Chung did not respond to attempts to reach him for comment.
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.”
Lin’s Facebook postings indicated she was unhappy because her boyfriend was ignoring her, and had failed to return home to be with her on her birthday. Her boyfriend found her body the next morning and alerted her family, Hsieh said.
Hsieh said he regretted that none of her friends called police to help her during the 67-minute episode, but he added it may have been difficult for them to know her whereabouts because of the nature of social media.
“It could be true that it would be hard to track down a Facebook friend without her address or phone contact,” Hsieh said.
Chai Ben-rei, a sociologist at Taiwan’s Feng Chia University, said the incident reflected social isolation in the internet age.
“People may have doubts about what they see on the internet because of its virtual nature, and fail to take action on it,” he said.
In a statement, Facebook said the company is deeply saddened by Lin’s death and the case serves as a “painful reminder of how people can help others who are in distress or need assistance”.
Facebook’s help page has links to suicide prevention hotlines in about 20 countries, including Taiwan.
In the case of an emergency, however, Facebook urges users to call authorities immediately.