In the world of social media we become quickly captivated by trends. One recent—yet avoidable—trend would be selfie deaths; people creating their own demise by seeking the “high adventure selfie.”
While people have often died from careless behavior, the selfie deaths seem to put the hazard in its’ own category of accidental homicides. As a matter of fact, selfie deaths have a Wikipedia page.
Between October 15, 2011 and March 9, 2019, the news clearinghouse forum has documented 305 human casualties (plus one dolphin) as a result of people taking selfies. Most of these led to death.
The list of categories include:
Police officers investigating these scenes have expressed incredulity at the foolish behavior.
A study conducted by researchers associated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences documented 259 selfie deaths between October 2011 and November 2017.
These are the study results:
From October 2011 to November 2017, there have been 259 deaths while clicking selfies in 137 incidents. The mean age was 22.94 years. About 72.5% of the total deaths occurred in males and 27.5% in females. The highest number of incidents and selfie-deaths has been reported in India followed by Russia, United States, and Pakistan. Drowning, transport, and fall form the topmost reasons for deaths caused by selfies. We also classified reasons for deaths due to selfie as risky behavior or non-risky behavior. Risky behavior caused more deaths and incidents due to selfies than non-risky behavior. The number of deaths in females is less due to risky behavior than non-risky behavior while it is approximately three times in males.
Of the 259 deaths, researchers found the leading cause to be drowning, followed by incidents involving transportation—for example, taking a selfie in front of an oncoming train—and falling from heights. Other causes of selfie-related deaths include animals, firearms and electrocution.
“The selfie deaths have become a major public health problem,” Agam Bansal, the study’s lead author, told The Washington Post.
Though the study found India to have the highest number of deaths of all countries, multiple reports of fatal selfie incidents have also come from Russia, the United States and Pakistan. Bansal noted that while the simple act of taking a selfie isn’t deadly, hazards arise when people take risks while trying to get that perfect shot.
“If you’re just standing, simply taking it with a celebrity or something, that’s not harmful,” he said. “But if that selfie is accompanied with risky behavior then that’s what makes the selfies dangerous.”
Bansal added he was also concerned about how many of the selfie-related fatalities involved young people. More than 85 percent of the victims were between the ages of 10 and 30, Bansal said.
“What worries me the most is that it is a preventable cause of death,” he said. “Taking a toll on these many numbers just because you want a perfect selfie because you want a lot of likes, shares on Facebook, Twitter or other social media, I don’t think this is worth compromising a life for such a thing.”
While the number of deaths reported in the study may seem high, Bansal said there could be many more cases that just haven’t been documented because of issues with reporting.
In 2018 alone, there were several selfie-related deaths. In May, a man in India tried to take a selfie with an injured bear and was mauled to death, the Independent reported.
In September 2018, two people died in the United States in separate cases also involving selfies.
On Sept. 5, an 18-year-old hiker from Jerusalem died after he fell more than 800 feet off a cliff at Yosemite National Park, according to ABC News. The man’s mother said he had been trying to take a selfie at the edge of Nevada Fall, a popular waterfall in the park, when he fell, the Times of Israel reported.
Roughly two weeks later, a 32-year-old California woman met a similar fate while hiking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan when she slipped and fell to her death after stopping at the edge of a 200-foot cliff to snap some selfies, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Mohit Jain, an orthopedic surgeon who was not involved in the recent study but has done research into selfie deaths, described the work of Banal and fellow researchers Chandan Garg and Abhijit Pakhare as “really necessary” to “make people aware that you can die while taking a selfie.” Jain published his own study last year about selfie-related mortality in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion.
“Sometimes eyes don’t see if your mind doesn’t know,” Jain told The Post.
Jain’s research documented 75 selfie deaths from 2014 to mid-2016.
“It’s like a man-made disaster,” he said. “It’s not a natural disaster.”
One possible way to prevent selfie deaths would be “no selfie zones,” Bansal said, banning them in certain areas such as bodies of water, mountain peaks and at the top of tall buildings.
Efforts to dissuade people from taking dangerous selfies have already been attempted in multiple countries, including India, Russia and Indonesia.
Three years ago, Russia launched a “Safe Selfie” campaign, which featured the slogan, “Even a million ‘likes’ on social media are not worth your life and well-being,” the BBC reported. An informational graphic with icons of “bad selfie ideas”—highlighting stick figures posing on power poles and while holding guns—was also distributed, Jain noted in his study.
In 2016, Mumbai declared 16 “no selfie zones” across the city following a slew of selfie-related deaths, the Guardian reported. Earlier this year, a national park in Indonesia announced it would be working to create a safe spot for photos after a hiker died taking a selfie, according to the Jakarta Post.
An Indian couple who fell to their deaths in October 2018 were apparently taking a selfie, according to a family member and media reports. Their tragic fall occurred in California’s Yosemite National Park.
Vishnu Viswanath, 29 and Meenakshi Moorthy, 30, died after falling from Taft Point—a popular overlook at the park that does not have a railing. Park rangers later recovered their bodies.
Viswanath’s brother told local media in India that he believes the couple were taking a selfie when the tragedy happened.
The pair, who lived in the United States, were travel enthusiasts and had a blog called Holidays and HappilyEverAfters that chronicled their adventures.
In an Instagram post prior to their death, Moorthy posted a photo of her sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon and reflected about the “daredevilry” of taking pictures from dangerous locations.
“Is our life worth just one photo?” she wrote.
Apparently it was.