Selfies can kill

Selfies are more deadly than sharks

By Kitty Knowles 23 September 2015
Selfies are deadlier than sharks. Pic:iStock/Global_Pics
Summary

More people have died in the act of taking a ‘selfie’ photograph this year than have been killed in shark attacks.

You might not think twice about pulling a pout, framing your face, and taking a selfie, but that appears to be why the act is becoming so dangerous.

This year 12 people have died while taking a photograph of themselves on their mobile phones, an even higher figure than the 8 people to have been killed in shark attacks.

Just this week a 66-year-old Japanese tourist died after after falling down stairs while attempting to take a photo at the Taj Mahal.

In September a father-of-two accidentally killed himself when taking a selfie with a loaded gun, and last month, a man in Spain was gored to death by a bull while taking a selfie at the annual bull running festival in the town of Villaseca de la Sagra.

Other deaths have been caused as distracted photo-takers have fallen off cliffscrashed their cars, and been hit by trains.

A photo posted by @jentwen on

 

One park in Denver, Canada, was forced to close after visitors continued to take extreme risks in order to photograph themselves with bears in the background.

“The current situation is not conducive for the safety of our visitors or the well-being of the wildlife,” said the park manager of the site. “We’ve actually seen people using selfie sticks to try and get as close to the bears as possible – sometimes within ten feet of wild bears.”

Officials in Australia have even had to fence off an unstable 16-storey wedding cake-shaped rock because couples kept taking selfies on it, despite fears it could collapse.

The rising death toll has prompted some governments to set about raising awareness of the risks associated with the dangerous selfie craze.

Earlier this year the Russian government launched a campaign follows several deaths involving selfies; including an incident where two men died photographing themselves with a live grenade.

 

Selfie warning signs issued by Russian Government. Pic:Russian Ministry of the Interior
Selfie warning signs issued by Russian Government. Pic:Russian Ministry of the Interior

In July, the Russian Interior Ministry released a brochure featuring warning signs that urge the public to take precaution around weapons, ledges, dangerous animals, trains and live wires.

“Before taking a selfie, everyone should think about the fact that racing after a high number of ‘likes’ could lead him on a journey to death and his last extreme photo could turn out to be posthumous,” an aide to Russia’s interior minister told Al Jazeera.

Could there be a dangerous psychology behind selfie taking?

Beside the obvious risks, some scientists believe that the psychology of selfie-takers may lead them to end up in more dangerous situations.

Research published by Ohio State University last year found that men who post a lot of selfies score higher in traits of narcissism and psychopathy in tests, suggesting that they may be more inclined to focus on personal gain in situations, rather than any dangers.

“It’s all about me. It’s putting me in the frame. I’m getting attention and when I post that to social media, I’m getting the confirmation that I need from other people that I’m awesome,” lead researcher Jesse Fox told Reuters.

“You don’t care about the tourist attraction you’re destroying; you don’t care about annoying people in your social media feed … you’re not even thinking about the consequences of your actions, so who cares if you’re dangling off the side of the Eiffel Tower?”

As people go to greater and riskier extremes in the search for the perfect picture, perhaps the growing number of bans on selfie sticks aren’t enough.

More awareness raising is needed to encourage keen photographers reevaluate the importance of taking the ultimate selfie.