Sunday, December 26, 2010

Heartbreak in Facebook world

By RASHVINJEET S.BEDI
sunday@thestar.com.my



A 45-minute suicide countdown on Facebook continues to touch members’ hearts. 

“Goodbye, my friend, goodbye My love, you are in my heart.” 

RUSSIAN poet Sergei Esenin wrote this suicide note in his own blood and passed it to his friend the day before he hanged himself.

That was in 1925; imagine what he would have done if he had killed himself today.

When Alviss Kong, 22, decided to take his life after his girlfriend of four months left him last week, he posted a farewell status on his Facebook page together with a teary photo of himself.

The status at 11.15pm read “Count Down For 45 Mins…What should I do in this 45 mins?”

In the ensuing minutes, up to 204 Facebook members “liked” his suicidal status post on his Facebook wall, but no one stopped him or alerted his family on his suicidal intentions.

Alviss: Met a tragic end after countdown.
 
Only his sister Chelvin Kong, 28, reportedly tried to talk him out of the suicide, but Alviss assured her that he was joking.

A few hours later, his body was found sprawled on a car, fallen from the 14th floor of his apartment building in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

This tragic tale has been getting a lot of media coverage especially in the Chinese press, begging the question – what do you do when someone tells you that he or she wants to commit suicide?

Student Ariel Yong*, 17, believes that many thought that Alviss’ message was a prank and simply played along.

“Sometimes when my friend and I wait for the LRT train, we make stupid jokes about throwing ourselves in front of the train. But we know it’s just a joke. I suppose on Facebook, it is difficult to know what somebody really means unless you are also friends outside.”

She feels this shows the significance of “friend” or “community” on Facebook: “Most are not real friends. My real friends would really know if I am joking or serious or if I am depressed or happy.”

International survey firm TNS last month reported that Malaysians had the most “friends” on Facebook and spent nine hours a day on average surfing the site of more than 500 million members.

Real friends or not, Kim Chua*, 19, hopes Alviss got some comfort from those who responded to his wall posting.

“They may not be his real friends or close friends, but no one wants to die alone,” she says.

The psychology student says studies show that an estimated 12–20% of suicides are accompanied by a note and people write it to ease their pain, not as a cry for help.

Paul Jambunathan, consultant clinical psychologist at Monash University Malaysia and Sunway Medical Centre describes those who “liked” Alviss’ Facebook status as “emotional voyeurs”.

“People love to hear about what is happening to others and how they are suffering,” he says, linking it to the trends in today’s popular culture.

“This culture includes suicide as an option to past history within the family or significant others, movies, lyrics and media sensationalism. They all have an effect that makes suicide an option when really it should never be,” he says.

But ultimately, no one can be blamed for Alviss’ death except himself. It was irresponsible of Alviss to put up the posting on Facebook, says Jambunathan.

“He expected society to be responsible for him. He killed himself because he was depress­ed, and became helpless and hopeless. It is unfair to pin this on the girl when the only person responsible is himself, his choices in life and the kind of friends he kept.”

Jambunathan believes that Alviss might not have jumped if there was any inkling of help or hope.

Consultant psychologist Valerie Jacques agrees that Alviss was deeply depressed and put his hopes in the relationship to make him happier.

“Nothing external will make a person happier when they are depressed from deep inside,” she says.

What is clear – and somewhat comforting – is the notion that love and the way people deal with its ups and downs have not changed over time.

Jambunathan concurs, saying that les affaires du coeur (affairs of the heart) have been known to drive men to “madness.”

He explains that very deep-level emotions are involved from even the early stages of love such as infatuation right to the latter stages of mantaining a functional relationship.

“How angry are you when you are hitting on a girl you have just met, and someone else is doing the same? (Love) evokes and stimulates the very basic and deep-rooted issues in people.

“These emotions lead to aggressive behaviour that can lead people to harming others or themselves,” he says.
This is probably why people act uncharacteristically when love is the core issue at stake. As they say, “love makes the world go round” or on the opposite end “love hurts.”

Jambunathan points out that while suicide seems to be an extreme option, others regularly indulge in self-destructive behaviour because of failures in their relationships. The “broken-hearted” might turn to alcohol to try and forget their relationship or sleep around to make themselves feel better, he adds.

Julia*, 30, remembers when she drove to see her then boyfriend after they had a fight over the phone. She was at a party and had been drinking a lot.

In any other circumstance, she wouldn’t have driven but at that moment she really had to see her boyfriend.

“I had many near misses on the road. I almost drove off a bridge but in the end I arrived at my destination. It was a very stupid thing to do,” she recalls.

She says that while career and financial issues are important, they are not as important as her romantic relationships.

Nazmi Johan*, 35, says that even tough-looking males can be “over-sensitive” when their relationships fail.

“It’s quite funny to see a grown man cry because of a girl but it happens,” he says.

“Love is the biggest seller. In almost every movie, there is always some sort of love element. People always believe that there is someone out there made for them and they will live happily ever after,” he muses.

Gregory Tan* who has been “dumped” a couple of times admits that he felt lost and turned to alcohol when his heart was broken.

“When that “one” person rejects you, it’s as if the whole world is rejecting you,” says Tan.

These days, he tries to be more philosophical about things. “I try to take an ‘everything happens for a reason’ attitude. When I fail at a relationship, I would say to myself that I would find someone more compatible,” he says.

Jacques believes love, not relationships, is a big reason why people consider suicide. In Alviss’s case, she believes that the root problem was that he did not feel loved.

“Even though his family love him dearly, he had a deep belief that no one loved him and so he was not lovable. So, any external sign of rejection or break up can trigger bad feelings,” she says.

3 comments:

Rightways said...

Beware that many people, mostly youngsters, indulge the whole day and night in Internet social networking sites, like the popular Facebook, and playing online games, like the very addictive WoW (World of Warcraft). They squander valuable times, learn nothing and can easily get into personal troubles in relationships, love, money, sex, depression and criminal activities, etc.

Internet is jungle and gold; winners take all, losers lose all! Unless they are knowledgeable, well informed and equipped, most probably they would be misled to no way.

Anonymous said...

Beware of Internet scams!

Rightways said...

Beware of Internet scams!