This week in class we talked about the rise in selfies and “safe selfie spaces” such as the Ice Cream Museum mentioned in @kaitlinardiff‘s blog post. I decided to dig a little deeper into selfies and how these life threatening pictures began.
But first let me take a selfie
Portraits have been around for generations. Royals even have them professionally painted for their “official portrait” which is one of the highest honors. Self portraits have also been around for awhile, although less popular, when a painter would portray themselves. Fast forward to the introduction of technology and cameras and self portraits became a selfie (although the word selfie first appeared in 2002 they were previously referred to as “Photographic self-portraiture“). Besides using a timer, the only way to take a picture of oneself was to turn the camera around and hope that you got a somewhat flattering angle of your face.
In 2010 the introduction of the iPhone 4 made this a whole lot easier by having a front facing camera to make taking a flattering selfie even easier. In 2013 it was officially added to the Oxford Dictionary as a word. And from then selfies became mainstream. The irony of the selfie is that the goal is often to appear casual… so how come people go to such extremes to get the perfect picture?
Selfies have been taken by everyone from the Pope to Kim Kardashian to my own mom (#selfiesuz). While most are casual, sometimes unflattering, pictures to immediately share with our social networks, there are a fair share who dare to go above and beyond. There is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to a list compiled of all the injuries/deathssomehow associated with taking a selfie. The main source of dangerous selfies? Driving. In 2014 the U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that 33,000 were injured while driving and using a cell-phone which could include taking a selfie. Other common sources of selfie injuries and death include drowning and posing with a firearm.
The first reported death by selfie was in 2011 and occurred when three teenagers were hit by a train shortly after taking a selfie on the tracks. Although many others have included a train in some way, shape, or form, others have occurred from taking them in risky situations. Many have drown or fallen to their serious injuries or death just from trying to get that perfect picture.
Selfies are meant to capture a moment, but society has moved so that we do things to create these moments for the selfies. Our culture has become so obsessed with doing something unique that people are risking their lives to take photos like this. While this may seem extreme, in 2015 more people died from taking selfies than from shark attacks. Just let that sink in. With so many injuries and deaths this has become a real problem for our selfie obsessed society. One researcher said, “People interact with their surroundings differently when they are taking pictures. They get too attached and involved in the locations, so they often forget about things.” Although these pictures made result in likes on Instagram, they also could result in serious consequences. People are failing to follow safety precautions and warnings in order to go farther for the better picture.
Although selfies are a relatively new phenomenon, humans displayed risky behavior is nothing new. Humans love to seek a thrill and this has carried itself over into taking these dangerous selfies. While risky behavior is not new one researcher said: “I can only speculate for now, but selfie deaths are linked to the penetration of technology, availability of smartphones, and the craze of social networks. As long as this is the case, people will look to one up each other’s photos to gain social currency in the form of followers and likes.”
So how do we prevent these crazy injury inducing selfies? There are researchers attempting to develop an app that warns risk takers when their selfie may be too dangerous. The goal is to use location along with being able to identify parts of the picture to warn the photographer. Of course this could prevent a danger in itself by prompting a notification on the phone. Even if this may seem like a silly far fetched problem now, as people continue to up their game this problem could continue. Only time will tell, but in the meantime think before you selfie.