Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Of Facebook, Loneliness and Suicide

Still contemplating a blogging break, but this is news I feel I should link to:

31-year old Taiwanese woman kills herself while chatting on Facebook

This is really just awful. The whole thing: the suicide, the "friends" who didn't call the police, the fact that they might not have even been good enough friends to know her phone number or where she lived, the fact that the catalyst seemed to be an inattentive boyfriend on her birthday, the fact that the problems she must have had surely went far beyond not only one bad episode with the boyfriend, or even one bad relationship. The fact that she got no help for whatever personal demons led her to do this. 

It highlights a lot of issues that deserve thought and discussion: how Facebook can be isolating, the nature of friendship in Taiwan, a lack of awareness about depression or other similar issues that could lead to suicide*, questions about the suicide rate among women in Taiwan (I know that in China it's higher for women than men, which is the opposite of the rest of the world - I don't know about Taiwan). There's also the nature of relationships in Taiwan and how living with parents before marriage, working late and a culture that discourages men from expressing themselves and seems to drive a wedge rather than build a bridge between men and women, families who don't know what's going on with each other, despite much touted "closer family ties" in Taiwan.

I hear that last one a lot: "family is so much more important in Asia". Yes, but I get the distinct impression that for all the family obligations, the length of time adult children often live at home, the more frequent family socializing and everyone-up-in-yo'-business family culture, relatives aren't generally close. Siblings and cousins in the same generation might be, but children - especially adult children - don't seem to be as close to their parents as I am to my parents or Brendan is to his. I feel that for all the time they spend together, they actually communicate less.

As for the boyfriend - I am reminded of that old "不要走!不要走!殺很大!" computer game commercial. I have to wonder how common that sort of "silently ignoring each other but not breaking up" thing happens among Taiwanese couples. In the end, though, to go so far as to kill herself, I would say that one can't blame the boyfriend: she clearly had problems of her own well beyond his inattentiveness. Blame a lack of adequate awareness, intervention at warning signs when someone is troubled to the point of suicidal, though. That's a huge problem.

*I'm only conjecturing here, but it seems fair to speculate that she was suffering from some issues deserving of mental health treatment

No comments: