On Thursday, Constance Wu returned to social media with a tragic and harrowing story. She says internet backlash to a 2019 tweet, including private messages from other actors, convinced her to attempt suicide.
“Looking back, it’s surreal that a few DMs convinced me to end my own life, but that’s what happened,” she wrote in a lengthy statement. “Luckily, a friend found me and rushed me to the ER.”
Crazy Rich Asians and Hustlers star Wu is referring to a 2019 tweet in which she expressed frustration at the renewal of Fresh Off the Boat, her ABC sitcom, which contractually locked her into another season of the show. She would later say the renewal forced her to pass on a “passion project” but at the time, many took it as an overly privileged star thinking she was too good for television. The dogpile was fierce and, according to Wu, personal.
“It ignited outrage and internet shaming that got pretty severe,” she wrote. “I felt awful about what I’d said, and when a few DMs from a fellow Asian actress told me I’d become a blight on the Asian American community, I started feeling like I didn’t even deserve to live anymore. That I was a disgrace to AsAms, and they’d be better off without me.”
No matter how many reminders we get that the person on the other side of the tweet, the Instagram post or the TikTok is a real person, these events always seem to serve as deeply distressing wakeup calls. Online pile-ons and ratios are a daily part of the internet experience now, and the line between holding someone accountable and just joining an angry mob isn’t always easy to determine in the moment.
It becomes even easier to join in when the target is someone like Wu — a rich, famous actor who, to the outside observer, is far away enough from gritty reality to cope with getting knocked around online a little. But of course, these are all very big assumptions and you just don’t know what the person on the other side of your screen is going through.
Wu says she’s got a book coming out about her experience, which will also explore her unique perspective as an Asian American actor. She said, “AsAms don’t talk about mental health enough. While we’re quick to celebrate representation wins, there’s a lot of avoidance around the more uncomfortable issues within our community. Even my tweets became a subject so touchy that most of my AsAm colleagues decided that was the time to avoid me or ice me out. I’ll admit it hurt a lot, but it also made me realize how important it is to reach out and care for people who are going through a hard time.”
Obviously, if people did know the person they were making fun of online was in a fragile state, they’d be a lot nicer. But since we can’t know one way or the other, we sacrifice nothing by defaulting to kindness.
You can read her full statement below.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, know there is help. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There are people waiting to talk and help.