In the Greek myth, the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool, and, unable to possess the object of his desires, killed himself. Today when mobile-savvy youth die taking their selfies, it evokes the image of poor Narcissus. The modern-day Narcissists, if one may call them so, don’t hesitate to put their lives at risk for the sake of those ‘breathtaking’ selfies.
We may see the fun part of it, but the rising number of selfie casualties cannot be taken lightly.
According to a recent report, India has the highest number of selfie deaths in the world. As per the report titled “Me, Myself and My Killfie”, 128 out of a total 213 selfie deaths recorded from 2014 to 2018 have been in India.
The report prepared by Carnegie Mellon University and Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi (IIT Delhi) cites some recent instances including death of a 38-year-old woman from Delhi who fell from a cliff when she tried to take a selfie with her husband. In another incident, a 14-year-old boy was electrocuted while attempting to take a selfie atop a stationary train. Another man tried to take a selfie with a wounded bear and was mauled to death by the animal.
The problem isn't just limited to India. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, thanks to the advances in mobile phone technology and Internet where you can instantly share your “ultimate selfie”.
A recent study titled, ‘Media-based clinical research on selfie-related injuries and deaths’, tracked the bizarre ways people died while taking selfies, from posing with grenades to wild walrus attacks.
The study conducted by a group of Turkish medical researchers looked at 159 selfie-related deaths and injuries across the world.
In 2017, a Russian man died after taking a selfie with a grenade. He pulled the pin out of the grenade believing that it would not explode unless he threw it.
A Chinese man was killed as he tried to take a selfie with a walrus at a wild life park in 2016. The walrus dragged him from behind and drowned him in a pool.
The Turkish study looked at media reports of selfie-related deaths and injuries from December 2013 to January 2017, finding that such deaths were reported most frequently in India, the US and Russia.
The study recorded 57 deaths from drowning, 25 deaths falling from high places, 18 cases of people crushed by trains and 7 incidents of serious head trauma from gunshots while taking selfies.
Such mishaps are bound to happen if we cross the line too often. Selfie lovers love to take pictures anytime, anywhere. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion or place. So what prompts people to go for the extreme selfies?
People love fame and social media has made it easier to make yourself known. Even if it’s limited to your friend circle on facebook, you just have to have something interesting to share. A unique selfie may just do the job. As Lee Thompson realized when his selfie on top of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janiero went viral in June 2014."People see pictures like mine and see how they spread across the world and see a way to make themselves famous for 15 minutes," BBC quoted Thompson saying.
BBC also cited a research by Ohio State University, which showed that people who post a lot of selfies also tend to score higher in traits of “narcissism and psychopathy”. A dangerous selfie may seem worth it for the number of likes and comments it draws. The number of ‘likes’ is a quantifiable measure of popularity. However, at a time when everyone is posting a picture, one may feel the urge to stand out, perhaps with a gravity-defying, jaw dropping selfie. The more extreme it is, the more likes and comments you get.
Taking a cue from the popularity of selfies, mobile phone manufacturers have been highlighting the camera features of their products.
Writing in Telegraph (UK), Anna Hart sees ‘digital vanity’ in today’s selfie generation. “For many of us who use social media, it’s second nature to think about the photo opportunities of the day ahead.”
She also quotes Prof Hanna Krasnova, who coined the phrase “envy spiral”: “If you see beautiful photos of a friend… you’ll feel envy. One coping strategy is to self-present with even better photos. Then your friend sees your photos and posts even better photos, and so on... and the world on social media gets further and further from reality.” Hart points out the irony of social media which promised “shared experience, greater connectivity and openness”, but all we get to see and share are lies.
One wonders, how would have the young Narcissus reacted to the mobile-wielding, selfie-taking modern-day Narcissists. He sure would not have liked the competition.