- Selfies boost self-esteem, selfies hurt self-esteem
- Selfies are empowering, selfies are narcissistic
- Selfies are fun and exciting, selfies can be annoying
- Selfies are about creative self-expression, selfies are about self-indulgence and vanity
The debate goes on…
The growing obsession with selfies has the smartphone brands competing in the markets for their coolest selfie features and cashing on the selfie fad. In a recent smartphone commercial aired on the prime TV channels, India’s ace cricketer, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is shown taking a selfie with a Lion.
Though the picture could be fake and is done in a fun spirit, yet, in my opinion showing a popular figure and a youth icon taking a selfie with the lion is ill-advised and irresponsible. Given the fact that several people have inflicted harm and injury upon themselves or upon the animals in the pursuit of snapping selfies with wild animals, celebrities should actually warn people of the risks of taking such life-threatening selfies.
Recently, a man got trampled to death while trying to take a selfie with an Elephant in Rourkela in Odisha. An endangered dolphin died in Argentina after people pulled it from the water and passed it around the beach for selfies. At the Yellowstone National Pak, five people taking selfie photographs provoked a bison into attacking them. During the annual bull-running festival in Toledo, Spain a man taking a selfie was tossed up into the air and gored to death by the bull in front of the horrified crowd.
Many such incidents have occurred all over the world.
Selfie-related impulsivity and fatalities
While selfies are now commonplace, and most of us indulge in clicking selfie for fun or to capture a particular moment, the craze for selfies has also inspired risk-taking and insensitive public behaviour that sometimes push the boundaries of safety, sanity and sensitivity.
People can be seen clicking selfies anywhere and everywhere, in the most-ridiculous places including washrooms, in the middle of busy roads, while driving, while dangling from the skyscrapers, at the edge of cliffs, in front of an emergency situation, at funerals, at the Holocaust Memorial or in close proximity with wild animals. The compulsive need to take and share selfies often makes people oblivious to the risks in the act, or unmindful of the insensitivity of the act.
Research indicates that globally, young people aged 21 and under are the victims of more than two-thirds of selfie-related deaths. Incidentally, India had witnessed more selfie deaths than any other country between 2014 and 2016, according to the San Francisco-based data service provider Priceonomics.
In an insensitive and unfortunate incident, a college student from Bengaluru drowned in a pond, as his fellow NCC cadets were busy clicking group selfies. In another incident, eight young men drowned while live-streaming their boat ride in Vena Dam reservoir near Nagpur, when the boat capsized. An eighteen-year-old girl was swept away by the waves and drowned in the sea while taking a selfie at Mumbai’s Bandstand fort.
In spite of the risks involved, the selfie-craze that has picked up with the use of smartphones is likely to stay and will not subside any soon. Let’s see how the selfie craze started and what drives such behaviour.
How did the selfie trend start?
“Selfie is defined as a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”
Literally unknown till the year 2001, the term “selfie” was first said to be used by an Australian man in 2002 on a chat forum, to describe his self-portrait, which he had taken after a drunken party on his 21st birthday. Its use spread slowly at first but then it took off. Maybe replacing portrait with the ‘ie’ suffix added to ‘self’, softened the narcissist connotation associated with self- portrait and ‘selfie’ began to be seen as an endearing word.
The launch of iPhone 4 in 2010, which came with a front-facing camera capable of taking selfie shots, accelerated the craze for selfies. Celebrities like Justin Beiber, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, etc. picked up the trend, which soon became a common practice among most of the smartphone owners. Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide took the selfie trend to the outer space when he snapped an out of the world selfie during a spacewalk at the International Space Station with the Sun and the Earth seen in against the backdrop of the dark, empty space.
By 2013, the word “selfie” had become commonplace enough to be included in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary. In November 2013, the Australian slang term “selfie” was named the international word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.
With the widespread popularity of selfie, it no longer feels odd to click a selfie and capture the moment in the camera. This actually comes in handy when you are travelling alone. A number of selfie apps with a range of filters and retouching options make you look better as you post them on social media platforms. This attracts immediate attention, which is a source of instant validation and makes people feel better about themselves, but in many cases, this also enhances the attention seeking behaviour due to which some people go to extreme lengths for getting the perfect selfie. Additionally, the adrenalin driving experiences could also be the reasons for people to take extreme selfies.
It seems that besides humans, monkeys too can take selfies. When photographer David Slater left his camera unattended for some time at the national park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, it was picked up by a macaque monkey, who was joined by her cohort. One of the monkeys clicked the shutter button while looking into the camera lens. Fascinated with the buzz, the monkey kept continually pushing the button, and in the process captured a number of monkey selfies.
Safe Selfie campaigns urge people to practice safe selfies
Since selfies are a part of our lifestyle, we need to be aware of the issues related with these and must be cautious enough to avoid deadly accidents and deaths caused by high-risk selfies. Whatever be the gratification derived from a selfie, no selfie is worth dying for.
Selfie-related fatalities have led many governments to launch safe selfie campaigns. In 2015, Russia’s Interior Ministry launched a campaign for safety before selfie. Guidelines issued by the Russian police warned mobile phone snappers against standing on railroad tracks, climbing onto roofs or posing for a selfie with a gun or a lion. The craze for bear selfie i.e. taking a selfie with a bear in the background, prompted the US Forest Service to advice the tourists to leave the animals alone. Many tourist sites including the Disney have banned the selfie stick.
After a series of ‘selfie-related deaths’, Mumbai police have designated 16 selfie-free zones in areas perceived as risky. These include such as Bandra, Mahim, Juhu, Colaba, Marine Drive, Sion, Worli, and Gorai. Mumbai now has a selfie point too,i.e. a special spot designated for selfies with CST, the heritage railway station building in its background. The Karnataka government has also decided to launch an online campaign warning that “self-photography could cost you your life” and urge people to take a pledge to take selfies responsibly.
Identifying the reasons behind engaging in risky selfies and the emotional payoff from the act could help in taking counter steps to make the campaigns more effective. Getting celebrities and popular players to speak to youngsters about the futility of life-threatening selfies can also increase the efficacy of these campaigns.
While snapping a selfie, let us always remember to make safety, sanity and sensitivity a priority over our selfie.
Never ever forsake your safety in pursuit of the perfect selfie.
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