Practice safe selfie. No selfie is worth dying for.

  • 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.

In another incident, actor Varun Dhawan was slammed by the Mumbai police for risking his life while clicking a selfie with a fan. He took it in the right spirit and apologized.

Varun Dhawan selfie trouble
A selfie is not worth dying for

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.

Do Not Selfie and Drive Image:

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.

Selfie fun
Selfies are globally popular Image:

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.

Not Safe Selfies – Image: Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation

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. 

References :

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    By: Somali K Chakrabarti

    Hi there! Welcome to Scribble and Scrawl! Here, I delve into themes related to positive lifestyle – from making smart-living choices, savvy financial decisions to nurturing the mind, body and soul. I share my travel experiences, explore facets of art and culture and highlight inspiring stories. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

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Somali K Chakrabarti

Hi there! Welcome to Scribble and Scrawl! Here, I delve into themes related to positive lifestyle - from making smart-living choices, savvy financial decisions to nurturing the mind, body and soul. I share my travel experiences, explore facets of art and culture and highlight inspiring stories. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

  • Yet another manifestation of our narcissistic tendencies. One way to control this menace could possibly be to stop commenting on or liking selfies posted by others!

  • Hard to believe you actually have to remind people to use common sense…or is it uncommon sense?

  • This was an interesting post! Selfies are definitely an international obsession. It exposes people’s levels of vanity and need for approval and validation. ‘Moments of fame’ are no longer just for celebrities. 99% of the time, there is zero logical, necessary reason for a person to be taking pictures of themselves on a daily basis and posting them on social media especially. The only exceptions that make sense, are in the usual scenario of: Traveling to a new country or maybe you’re at a convention or conference, and a group selfie is taken; or you’re capturing a beautiful vacation scene and you take a selfie with that in the background, etc. For the people who do it once in a while, no big deal. For the people who do it daily, or multiple times a day, there’s a deeper issue there. There are healthier ways to validate and accept ones self, rather than participating in an internationally accepted form of craziness.

    • Hello Chrissy, Thank you so much for reading and adding to the discussion. I completely agree that posting selfies once in a while, particularly when one is travelling to a new place or on some special occasion or a group-selfie at a gathering makes sense, but posting selfies on a daily basis gets a bit too overwhelming even for others to see. I agree that it could be the indication of a deeper issue that has something to do with the continuous need for external validation.

  • I am in complete agreement with your thoughts Somali Ji.

  • It is a nice and very elaborate post. I think craze for selfie is human desire to look at his / her own image and feel good about it. That is why people keep on taking selfies at different locations even at the cost of endangering their own lives. I find the fascination to be narcissism at its best / worst.

  • I have to say I loathe this narcissistic idiocy.

  • I also loathe this selfie culture, did you know 3 people have fallen to their deaths trying to take selfies at the Meherangarh Fort in Jodhpur? Why can’t people eat a meal without taking a picture of themselves with it? What happened to conversation? People say to me, well if you don’t take a selfie, how will people know you were there? Who cares? Enjoy the moment, not yourself…. I’m quite happy with one cursory glance in a mirror each morning, I don’t need a million photos of myself, to prove what? I was sitting next to a girl on a plane the other day who took about 20 photos of herself, sitting in the plane seat? Why? I just don’t get it…..

    • Hello Philippa, Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Taking 20 selfies on a plane seat is redundant I guess, but what a waste it is to die for a selfie! Maybe this mindless selfie obsession stems for a desperation to be noticed by any means.

  • I think selfie culture is here to stay as it has been promoted so much by our heroes and leaders and even highlighted by media. With so much of hero-worship around us, what we need is a campaign equivalent to ‘cigarette smoking being injurious’…Awakening and self-care are the constant reminders that people need!! Isn’t it strange? Thank you Somali for highlighting this important issue.

    • Thank you very much, Balroop. Like you, I also think that the selfie culture is here to stay. All that can be done is to make people aware of the safety issues. Yes it is strange that we all have to be reminded continuously of things that should be at the top of our mind.

  • Selfie kills the joy of clicking pictures and this overdone culture represents such a huge hazard that we don’t pay heed to. I am against selfie and except on very rare occasions. In fact, we need celebrities to send message on responsible selfies like responsible driving, Somali. The backdrop you provided on the origin is interesting and well-detailed.

    • True Vishal. This is an overdone culture, inspiring inspired atrocious songs such as Selfie Maine…. I don’t mind an occasional selfie but when I see people take selfies continuously, it gets on to my nerves. Thank you for sharing your thoughts..

  • This is a very apt post right now Somali.. I saw only in the local news how people here were taking selfies of themselves with Deer and Stags in the Countryside.. It is rutting season here, do these people know how dangerous a Stag can be in rutting season.. Crazy Mad..

    I like to point the camera in the other direction, though it is something the younger generation is brought up with, I know now you can make silly faces on your phones in images of yourself.. My 6 yr old granddaughter sent me a selfie with rabbit ears etc..
    Which is fine for children.. But when adults are doing it… LOL.. Makes me wonder at times where our world is heading.. :-)
    LOVE and Hugs my friend xxx

    • Yes Sue, it is understandable when kids do it, or even when adults do it once in a while but to do it repeatedly every now looks ridiculous and to go to extreme lengths for taking a selfie is both stupid and dangerous.
      In India this added fascination for #selfiewithforeigner has also picked up, which can become very annoying for tourists who come from outside the country.

      Thank you so much for your valuable comment. Love & Regards, Somali

  • Somali, this is a very detailed piece of work and nicely crafted post with so many finer dimensions that you have beautifully captured. A must read for all those selfie crazy brigade and that is expanding with no sign of abatement, and we keep hearing such crazy acts of taking selfie and the unfortunate incidences, and then the bigger question that haunts us what is the value of life and where are we heading.

    Is life about the moment and the instant gratification or is this the way the world is taking it shape in the mobile and digital world. When I look at the value proposition that drives the people on taking selfie and why selfie is such a craze, I find no answer. If one gives a deep thought it is such an inconsequential activity and has uncharacteristically acquired such gigantic proposition in its manifestation and it’s reckless influence on the way we live our life and the way we engage with the real world around us when we have the mobile camera in hand.

    Interestingly, as you have mentioned about the first use of the word and that after a drunken party and by someone who must have been in an inebriated state, and that very word has today take the world with a storm and we have so many obsessed people crazy for selfie. As so rightly articulated, the bigger question is how to bring safety, sanity and sensitivity to people who are obsessed and something that is pushing them to do an act ignoring the fact that it gets us nowhere and we get nothing in real and keeping the fear at bay, the act is so dangerous and we have become fearless. With animals and on cliffs, I agree it is irresponsible on part of celebrity to do any act of selfie and add fuel to the rising fire.

    Thanks for such a refreshing post and hope you had a great Sunday.

    • Is life about instant gratification? The selfie culture that has gone viral is about instant gratification and seeking constant validation for something that is of no value to anybody, and for which people go to the extreme lengths. Thank you for raising this very pertinent question, Nihar.
      Have a great week. ????

      • Yes Somali, this selfie culture is unfortunately cultivated a wrong culture but whom to blame, there is a craze and there is perhaps a fad that may be sooner or taken over another one that must on the anvil…good to talk on points changing the counters of our digital discussion.
        Thanks for a lovely insight.

  • This is such an informative and eye-opening post about the dangers of takng a selfie. Didn’t know that India has the highest selfie-related deaths and some places are selfie-free now. I am always curious as to why some people like to take selfies with animals. As you mentioned in the post, it can be dangerous. You just don’t know how the animal will react – especially if you are using the front facing camera and the animal sees itself on the screen.

    Personally I’m not a huge fan of taking selfies. Sometimes I do to mark an occasion. When I’m traveling, I’d much, much rather take photos of my surrounds than take a photo of myself and am not the kind to get upset if I don’t have photos or selfies of myself.

    That said, I’ve got nothing against anyone who wants to take a selfie. If they want to, why not. After all, it’s a way of self-expression just like how we express ourselves and share our stories through social media :)

    • Thank you , Mabel. I also do not mind an occasional selfie, but I tend to get irritated when I see some people overdoing it. However, I agree what is excess for me may not be excess for someone else. But to go to extreme lengths for a selfie seems utmost stupid. Hope you are having a lovely weekend. :)

      • That is so true. What is excess for someone may not be excess for someone else. A selfie is a selfie – but it rarely is worth a million dollars. It is the experience of the journey which is priceless :)

  • Yes please no one getting hurt over a selfie!

  • I came back to read the update on our latest youth icon and heart throb. He should have been more careful since that famous selfie has put in his own life and that of a fan in danger. Being a star, one should avoid doing it to a dangerous level. But, good he apologized and would be good if Varun could post a video warning on the dangers.

  • Selfie obsession is growing by the day and with every next launch of smartphones focusing on this feature this trend isn’t going to go away in a hurry. Somali, your post is educating and helpful in spreading awareness regarding the perils of being selfie-obsessed. Though I feel selfie is an art which i have yet to explore but the young gen is quite adept and obsessed with it. Hope they and everyone understand the importance of safe selfie pledge. As you very rightly said, “No selfie is worth dying for.”

  • Really an enjoyable thing to read. And I understand what you mean. I’ve been telling many of my friends about this. No selfie worth the risk of dying. And yet many willing to take the risk.
    I read many psychology journals about this. And the bottom line reason is always the same: I want the attention from other people to give social conformity.
    Check one of them:

    Your post really educating. Thank you!!!

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