Opinion / Raymond Zhou

Without a safety net, dead on the net

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-08 13:21

On Nov 30, a 19-year-old man in Sichuan province killed himself by taking sleeping pills and filling his room with carbon monoxide fumes. From 8 am until 2 pm he tweeted his thoughts and actions, often accompanied with photos, until he passed out.

This was not the first suicide broadcast live via social media, and doubtless it will not be the last. From what is known, there seems to have been no foul play. The young man, surnamed Zeng, started an online relationship with a woman and a week later she wanted to end the relationship. But he could not take no for an answer.

As soon as he began to upload messages and photos about his intentions, his followers alerted local police and they immediately tried to find him. It took several hours to do so, and by the time they and Zeng's relatives broke into his room, he was unconscious. He died shortly after being taken to a hospital.

The main point of contention is some of the messages left on Zeng's micro blog while he was sending out dozens of tweets. While the bulk encouraged him to stay calm and not do anything foolish-and some even gently tried to get him to divulge his location so police could find him a few messages took the opposite tack: They ridiculed him for being a fool and a coward, and some even egged him on.

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