Many people seem to spend their lives ‘collecting' contacts on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and I have often wondered why.

Is it to prove to themselves, or others, that they have a long list of ‘friends' or is it that they just like seeing their own name spread as widely as possible throughout cyberspace?

Either way, social networks seem to be a rather superficial medium whilst I do appreciate there are many benefits.

When I read the headline in the paper last week that certain Facebook ‘friends' failed to act on reading a suicide note, I wanted to enquire further.

Apparently, the woman had posted a message on her Facebook page to say that she was going to take her own life. However, instead of trying to take some action to avert this threat, her online contacts merely left messages for her and argued amongst themselves. Some of her ‘friends' even lived within walking distance from the woman but no one actually called to see her — and so she died, a tragic, lonely death.

This is a sad story for many reasons. Firstly, that someone had to rely on a social network to say how she really felt and secondly, her call for help was ignored.

Time to reflect

I guess that this is a sad reflection on our society, in many ways. People go about their busy lives and don't necessarily have time for others. As we well know, we sometimes have to virtually book an appointment to speak to our husbands, wives or children — such is the frenetic pace of life today.

The above incident takes me back to my time when I was a helpline volunteer for the Samaritans' crisis helpline, in London, when we had to deal, on a daily basis, with desperate or depressed people wishing to take their own lives.

Our training was to first always ask the caller the question: "Do you feel suicidal?" And then wait long enough for a response. Followed by, "How can I help you?"

The answer might be that they had no one else to speak to who would take the time to listen to them attentively. Is that not such a sad reflection on society, in so many countries?

That is what happened to the unfortunate woman who posted her anguished cry for help, on Facebook — but nobody took any action.

Do we not have a responsibility to actually listen and take action when someone we know is so desperate or lonely that they feel life is not worth living any more? Or is it more convenient to just ignore them and carry on with our own busy lives?

Giving our precious time to others we know, at work or at home, can sometimes be an effort but there can be nothing more important in our lives than to make time for someone else.

Real not virtual

  • Many people spend time in cyberspace collecting contacts of little value.
  • A virtual world will never replace real people and real challenges.
  • It is really important to make time, and to listen to our family and friends

The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London. Contact them for proven stress strategies -