Practice Safe Selfies: Don't Die for Social Media!

When I was a kid, my family took a car trip through Arizona, where we briefly visited the Grand Canyon. My dad asked my mom to take a photo of him standing at the edge of the canyon and he leaned backward a bit, pretending to wave his arms like he was losing his balance.

I was 10, so I thought this was hysterical. I still do, in fact which shows I get my odd sense of humor from my dad.

But people have actually died in similar situations, so anytime I strike that pose myself, I always make sure I'm nowhere near the 200-foot drop.

I've never been a fan of selfies though. My kids take them constantly, I have friends who love them, including one friend who once took a photo of a roomful of people using the pole from a swimming pool net as a selfie stick.

I've seen selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pyramids of Giza, and other important world landmarks.

Why can't you just take a photo of the actual landmark? Why do you have to be in it? Just take the photo of the place so you can appreciate your experience years from now, not regret taking the same "Look, I'm pushing the Tower of Pisa" photo as thousands of other tourists.

I understand why people like to take them. It's a way to say, "Look at me, world. Here I am, doing a thing I like." But it's a little self-centered when your entire Instagram feed is photos of you blocking the Eiffel Tower, blocking a beautiful sunrise at the beach, and blocking the Royal Wedding.

I don't mind it when people take pictures of me, but I hate to snap my own photos so I rarely do it.

It's like taking photos of your food, another annoying habit and a practice that I have always found to be dishonest. The person is saying, "look, I'm about to eat this," but you don't know. You have no idea if the person ate it, if a bird stole it, or if they fell off a cliff. Plus it strikes me as the epitome of narcissism. At least when you take pictures of yourself, your friends get to see how you're doing. No one cares what you're about to eat.

As a protest against food photos, I only take photos after I've eaten. I'll take a picture of an empty plate and tell people what I just ate. I have to take your word for it that you ate that entire meal, so you can just believe that I ate mine.

But selfies aren't just self-indulgent, they're dangerous. Between December 2013 and January 2017, as many as 159 people have died in some sort of mishap taking a selfie.

According to an article on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website, Turkish researchers have tallied up selfie-related accidents and found that the leading cause of death was not falling as you might expect. That was the second leading cause; the leading cause was drowning.

The findings were reported in the Turkish Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery. The researchers examined 159 stories of selfie-related deaths and came up with the various methods people accidentally died.

However, there's a bit of confusion about the most accurate numbers: there's a list on Wikipedia of people who have died or been injured from selfie-related accidents, including where and how they did it.

Meanwhile, another news story said Russian police have reported 100 selfie-related deaths in their own country, although that could be a cover for what happened to people who spoke out against Vladimir Putin.

According to the Turkish study, 57 people have drowned, 27 people have fallen to their deaths, and 18 people were crushed by a train.

For example, in June 2016, a 51-year-old German tourist died at Machu Picchu while trying to take a "flying selfie." That is, jumping in the air as he snapped a picture. He lost his footing and fell 130 feet. More recently, an 18-year-old American died after slipping off a cliff as he was taking a selfie at a whale-watching site in Sydney, Australia.

Eight people have died by gunshots, seven by electrocution, and six by truck collision. One story, while not specifically a truck collision, happened when two girls in Mexico stood on the roof of their parked pickup truck to take selfies when the wing of an airplane collided with them.

The Turkish study said only four people died from animal injuries, but Wikipedia listed at least six people, four of whom were trampled by wild elephants, a man who was drowned by a walrus, and one who was mauled to death by a wounded bear.

Wild elephants apparently hate having their pictures taken, like that one aunt who refuses to let anyone take pictures of her at family gatherings, and they will not hesitate to trample anyone who does it.

The elephants, I mean. The aunt just locks herself in the bathroom. It's the same damn fight we have every year, Karen. The kids just want one picture of you where you don't have your hands in front of your face. You're not going to be around forever!

If you're going to take a selfie, don't put yourself at risk to get the picture. Take care of yourself first, stay safe, and get someone else to take the photo. Better yet, if you're going to do something dangerous, shoot a video instead. At least I can sell that to the tabloids.

Photo credit: Alexander Klink (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

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