Taking the perfect photo of yourself can be pretty satisfying, whether you’re on vacation, at an important event or just at home perfecting your poses. But while it’s become ever easier to get that great snap – filter or no filter – this in itself may come with its own risks. You see, some unlucky individuals have actually died in the pursuit of capturing themselves on camera – and the number of people who have perished in the act of taking selfies is shockingly large.
It’s now practically effortless to grab a photo or two on the move, of course, and that’s largely thanks to the smartphone. Today, you don’t have to lug a bulky camera around to document the splendor that surrounds you; instead, you only need reach into your pocket. And one type of photograph has proven incredibly popular in recent years.
For close to two centuries, people have been taking self-portrait photos using various types of cameras. But as devices started to become more portable, selfies became much simpler to achieve. Now, amateur photographers could capture shots of themselves while still clutching their own cameras.
And owing to how readily available smartphones are today, it’s believed that millions of such photos are snapped each week. Unfortunately, though, it also appears that more people are willing to risk danger – even death – to capture the perfect snap. Indeed, when a research paper on the inherent dangers of the high-risk selfie was published in 2018, it recorded some startling results.
Throughout our lives, we’ll all experience a number of pivotal moments that help to define us – the day we graduate from college, perhaps, or the time we get married. But sometimes we don’t just have to rely on our memories when we’re reminiscing.
Yes, thanks to cameras, special occasions can be documented and relived for decades to come. And while in the past just about any snap would have to go off to be developed before the result was revealed, that all began to change when the first digital cameras hit the shelves in Asia in the late 1980s.
In contrast with more traditional devices, digital cameras don’t rely on film to capture photographs. What’s more, a digital camera user can immediately view the pictures that they’ve taken on the device itself – something that they also couldn’t do previously. As a result, then, we now have the ability to keep both physical and digital copies of our precious images.
And while greater numbers of people started to use digital cameras throughout the 1990s, an arguably even more significant breakthrough was made in 2003. That year, camera phones first became available to consumers. And it didn’t take long for the public to show their appetite for this brand-new product.
Incredibly, camera phones outsold digital cameras across the world within the first 12 months of their release. After that, more cellphones went on to include camera functions. And in 2010 – just seven years on from the camera phone’s debut – more than a billion of the devices were being operated by users.
Fast-forward to the present day, then, and we can now snap photographs of pretty much anything at any time. As far as sharing photos is concerned, though, a revolution of sorts took place in the 2000s. During that period, you see, social media websites such as MySpace began to emerge on the internet.
At that point, people could upload their pictures to their respective social media accounts. Since then, sites such as Instagram that primarily focus on sharing photos have come to the fore, too. And, increasingly, one type of image continues to crop up online.
We’re talking about selfies, of course, which have become virtually ubiquitous on social media. Before smartphones arrived, people had to rely on functions such as remote controls or timers in order to snap self-images with their cameras.
But owing to the front-facing option on camera phones, users can now see what their pictures will ultimately look like on their screens. After that, a selfie-taker typically holds their device at a certain distance from their body before finally making the shot. And given how simple the selfie-snapping process is, the sheer number of such photos on social media shouldn’t be that surprising.
But while the practice of taking selfies is largely harmless, there are individuals who have put themselves at real risk to snap the “perfect” picture – whether that’s by standing on the edges of buildings or teetering on the precipices of cliffs. And regardless of the quality of the image, it’s arguably not worth it when one wrong step could prove disastrous.
Noting this emerging trend, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences conducted some intriguing research into the subject of selfies. And when the resulting paper was published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care in the second half of 2018, the results contained within proved rather alarming.
Titled Selfies: A boon or bane?, the paper took an in-depth look at the number of “selfie deaths” that have occurred over a certain period. The article begins, “Selfie is a recent phenomenon and was named as the word of the year [in] 2013 by [the] Oxford Dictionary. Google [has] estimated that 24 billion selfies were uploaded to Google Photos in 2015.”
The fascinating statistics didn’t end there, either. The research paper continued, “About one million selfies are clicked per day in [the] 18 to 24-year-old demographic.” The findings also quoted work by think tank Pew Research Center, which has claimed that around 55 percent of millennials had posted selfies on social media services.
During the researchers’ investigation, moreover, they noted that certain sites on the internet contained information about “how to have a perfect selfie.” And the article shed some light on the genre’s developing terminology to boot, using examples such as “dentisfie” and “restaurantfie.”
“[The] introduction of ‘selfie sticks’ and ‘selfie shoe[s]’ have enhanced [the] obsession among people for selfies,” the paper announced, going on to claim, “These days, the choice of smartphones is based on their selfie-picture quality. In addition, there are certain events held at school or college level that promote selfies, like the ‘Best Selfie’ prize.”
Following that introduction to the article, however, the researchers outlined their aims for the study. For example, they highlighted that certain people do put themselves at risk to capture personal snaps, and that this in itself can lead to tragedy. And the authors made sure to point out that they weren’t the only ones to take an interest in the phenomenon.
The report noted, you see, that Google’s first search queries for “selfie deaths” had been made in January 2014. This had come in the wake of the death of a Lebanese citizen who had died from a car bomb moments after posing for a self-portrait.
Yet while the process of taking a selfie can lead to someone’s untimely passing, the authorities don’t always recognize the action as the actual cause of death. The paper continued, “It is believed that selfie deaths are underreported, and the true problem needs to be addressed. For example, certain road accidents while posing for selfies are reported as death due to road traffic accident.”
So with that in mind, the researchers explained how they had approached conducting this particular study. As revealed in the paper, they had endeavored to compile a list of stories from across the internet that suggested an individual had died while taking a selfie. Then the group attempted to see whether those links could be backed up by newspaper reports.
And with all the pieces in place, the researchers eventually shared their results. “From October 2011 to November 2017, there have been 259 deaths while clicking selfies in 137 incidents,” the final paper read. “There have been three selfie-related deaths reported in 2011, two in 2013, 13 in 2014, 50 in 2015 [and] 98 and 93, respectively, in 2016 and 2017.”
And the research team went on to break down those numbers even further. The article continued, “The mean age [of death] was 22.94 years, with [a] range from 10 to 68 years. About 72.5 percent (153) of the total deaths occurred in males and 27.5 percent in females.”
According to this in-depth analysis, half of the selfie deaths had taken place in India, while Russia possessed the second-highest figure. The U.S. and Pakistan, meanwhile, rounded off the list of the top four nations for selfie fatalities.
And the group would reveal a bit more about the nature of these deaths. The paper explained, “Drowning, transport and falls form the top three reasons for deaths caused by selfies. The most common drowning incidents include [getting] washed away by waves on [the] beach, capsizing of boats while rowing [and] clicking selfies on shore while not knowing how to swim or ignoring warnings.”
In addition to these fatalities, the researchers flagged up yet another notable cause of death. Perhaps inevitably, there had been lethal accidents when people had attempted to snap themselves holding guns – most notably, as the study revealed, in the U.S.
But the All India Institute of Medical Sciences report also made a distinction between the “risky behavior” and “non-risky behavior” involved in selfie deaths. Risky behavior covered someone teetering on the edge of a high location; non-risky behavior, on the other hand, encapsulated situations where the danger wasn’t immediate or apparent.
The research paper noted, “Risky behavior caused more deaths and incidents due to selfies than non-risky behavior. Our study has shown that the number of deaths in females is less due to risky behavior…. while [death by risky behavior] is approximately three times [higher] in males.”
And even after the data on selfie deaths was shared with the world, more people have unfortunately passed away in the process of making self-portraits. In 2018, for example, a missionary named Gavin Zimmerman was involved in an accident while traveling around New South Wales, Australia. At that time, he had been attempting to take a selfie from one of the cliffs in the nation.
Zimmerman then lost his balance and tumbled off the edge into the water below. And, tragically, the Utah native had already succumbed to his injuries when the authorities found him. Following the teenager’s untimely passing, then, one of his friends touched upon what he’d planned to do prior to the fall.
“[Zimmerman] sent me pictures of him on pdays [preparation days],” Gio Grillo told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2018. “[He was] going to cool hikes and showing me the beautiful views of Australia. He emailed me…telling me [that] they were going to the cliffs, and he was going to take lots of pictures to show me.”
And in the wake of the tragedy, Zimmerman’s parents Jeanette and Raymond paid a loving tribute to their son through a press release. The message read, “[Zimmerman] was a great example to us all, and he loved his mission very much. He enjoyed teaching people and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The Zimmermans’ statement added, “He loved the savior Jesus Christ and his family, and we loved him. Gavin was a bright light in our lives. Our family will miss him greatly until we meet again.” To ensure that tragedies such as this one happened less frequently, however, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences had a suggestion.
Yes, as the researchers started to wrap up their paper, they discussed the potential ways in which selfie deaths could be reduced. And, in fact, one of the mooted solutions was already being implemented by a few countries across the globe, as so-called “no-selfie zones” had been brought in to help keep people safe.
“In Mumbai, 16 areas have been declared as ‘no-selfie zones,’” the article revealed. “In Indonesia, administrative officials are preparing a safe selfie spot for foreigners and tourists at Mt. Merapi, taking into consideration the risk of selfie deaths.” The report also noted that Russian authorities had erected signs warning of the dangers of taking selfies in particularly risky areas.
However, while the All India Institute of Medical Sciences had tried its best to raise awareness on this issue, there was one other problem. Although the study had compiled the largest list of selfie deaths and reports to date, the paper stated, “This is just the tip of [the] iceberg. Many cases are not reported.”
In conclusion, then, the researchers suggested that further “no-selfie Zones” needed to be introduced around the world in order to discourage the public from putting their lives in danger. But that wasn’t the research paper’s only recommendation.
The team added, “Individuals need to be educated regarding certain risky behaviors and risky places where selfies should not be taken. ‘No-selfie zones’… should be declared across many tourist [spots] – especially places such as water bodies, mountain peaks and tall buildings – to decrease the incidence of selfie-related deaths.”