You’ve probably heard of “extreme selfies” taken by people snapping photos of themselves in potentially dangerous locations and scenarios.
There’s more than 9400 posts on Instagram with the hashtag #extremeselfie, and the trend has only accelerated with the advent of the selfie stick.
A lot of these selfies are harmless hijinks, but there’s been a rash of media stories recently concerning people dying from selfie-induced accidents (selfie-cide?).
One story that got a lot of attention was posted on Mashable with the headline: “More people have died from selfies than shark attacks this year.”
As Mashable reports, in 2015 there have been eight deaths caused by sharks and 12 by selfies.
Mashable’s story was a huge viral hit – shared over 132,000 times on social media, and spawning stories in publications from the Sydney Morning Herald to Slate to a news station in South Africa.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that a spate of selfie deaths in Russia led the Interior Ministry to launch a public safety campaign warning: “A cool selfie could cost you your life.”
People have died taking selfies with weapons, such as the two men in the Ural mountain region of Russia who died while posing for a selfie with a live grenade, and a 19-year-old Texas man who died after accidentally shooting himself in the neck during an attempted selfie.
People are being killed, or grievously injured, while posing for selfies with or near animals: a Spanish man was gored to death by a bull; a California man was bitten while holding a poisonous rattle snake; and a Mississippi woman was injured taking a selfie near a wild bison.
Deadly falls are another consequence of inattentive and risky selfies: a young Russian woman fell to her death while attempting a selfie hanging from a bridge; a Japanese man died this month after falling down stairs at the Taj Mahal.
Not all of these deaths are caused by extreme selfie-seeking, and there have been gut-wrenching if entirely avoidable tragedies, like a young woman in the Philippines who drowned on her 18th birthday attempting to take a selfie on a beach, and the Polish couple who perished taking a selfie when they fell from the edge of a cliff in Portugal, while their children watched.
Authorities in multiple countries are taking action to protect people from harming themselves or others with selfie madness.
Some are responding by banning selfie sticks (Disney World), or outlawing selfies with animals (New York says no selfies with tigers), or with public safety campaigns such as the aforementioned one in Russia.
Maybe it makes sense to have rules or laws barring people from taking dangerous and stupid selfies just to get a few likes on Facebook or Instagram.
But let’s put things in perspective.
Deaths by selfie, extreme or not, are extremely rare.
Some media outlets have sensationalized these stories, blowing them out of proportion, just like they tend to do with shark attacks (the odds of being attacked by a shark in the US are 1 in 11.5 million).
Really, a much more common safety risk in our social media and mobile device saturated culture is texting and driving.
Shouldn’t it be common sense that people should not take that selfie, or use their mobile devices in any way, while driving, flying, climbing, walking, running, swimming, and so on?
Or are we too addicted to multi-tasking and information over-stimulation to just put the smartphone away?
Image of selfie with shark courtesy of Shutterstock.com.
13 comments on “What are you more afraid of – sharks or selfies?”
(the odds of being attacked by a shark in the US are 1 in 11.5 million). I don’t like it when people talk about odds of this or that happening””’when you get killed the odds of that happening are 1:1
I agree that without some context (and time limit, and, for that matter, a definition of what “shark attack” even means) that figure is kind of weird.
Let’s ask JZ how he came to that number, and then we can annotate the statement.
The statistic comes from a column written by George H. Burgess, a scientist and director of the International Shark Attack File.
I’m not sure how he calculates that figure. But as he’s a shark expert who tracks shark “attacks,” I presume he knows what he’s talking about.
Here’s one way to imagine how he might have calculated it. In the last 100 years, according to this chap’s statistics, 13 people have died as a result of shark bites in US waters.
If about 150,000,000 Americans have died in the last 100 years, the odds of any death being due to a shark are, indeed, about 1 in 11.5m.
(The numbers seem to be that more than 150,000,000 Americans have died in the last 100 years – currently, about 2.5m Americans die each year, up from 1.5m in the 1930s – but when you are dealing with events so rare that there is only about one every ten years in the entire US, odds like this are silly, IMO, and should be ignored. Anyway, if you don’t swim, or rarely go in the ocean, the odds are quite different. Essentially zero, in fact.)
Until we know what’s actually being measured, e.g. “number of times you can expect to be bitten by a shark to a degree requiring stitches for every 100 hours you spend swimming submerged in US coastal waters,” or something…I suggest you take it as a sort of unscientific reminder that you needn’t worry about sharks too much, especially if you live in Minnesota.
In Minnesota, it’s the muskies that’ll getcha!
Looks like natural selection is still working.
An interesting story, but what’s the infosec angle?
“Careful with that stick, Eugene.”
We don’t need laws about this stuff.
Stupid and foolish people will not obey them.
Let the Darwin Award candidates do as they will. We will review them at the end of the year to pick a winner, like always.
Yeah, typical New York. They need a LAW against taking “selfies” with tigers. Feel the dumbth.
I agree. Taking a selfie with a tiger, indeed! Everyone knows you should use a camera.
This is just a newer version of the old redneck quote, “Hold my beer and watch this.” People who lack the foresight or common sense to determine whether or not taking a selfie with a tiger (really???) is a good idea are doomed to remove themselves from the gene pool, either now or later.
This kind of thing reminds me of a t-shirt that I saw once that said, “Stupid people shouldn’t breed.”
Oh well, if it is true that they inadvertently removed them selves from the gene pool and they have yet not begotten a descendant, they will be qualified for posthumous nomination for the coveted Darwin award. However they will need to just be a candidate to wait in line because this years have already filled with qualified candidates and not all nominees can win the award. They must demonstrate exceptional originality and creative imagination.