A study recently published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care reported that at least 259 people died taking selfies between October 2011 and November 2017. The study suggests lives could be saved if dangerous areas were declared “no selfie zones,” where visitors are explicitly warned of the risks in the area.
The study concluded that:
“From October 2011 to November 2017, there have been 259 deaths while clicking selfies in 137 incidents. The mean age was 22.94 years. About 72.5% of the total deaths occurred in males and 27.5% in females. The highest number of incidents and selfie-deaths has been reported in India followed by Russia, United States, and Pakistan. Drowning, transport, and fall form the topmost reasons for deaths caused by selfies. We also classified reasons for deaths due to selfie as risky behavior or non-risky behavior. Risky behavior caused more deaths and incidents due to selfies than non-risky behavior. The number of deaths in females is less due to risky behavior than non-risky behavior while it is approximately three times in males.”
To arrive at these figures, researchers scanned the web for news stories associated with the terms “selfie deaths; selfie accidents; selfie mortality; self photography deaths; koolfie deaths; mobile death/accidents” and then simply totaled up the incidents. The study’s authors, however, noted the possibility that additional deaths may not have been reported by the media and were therefore not recorded in the study.
Many of the deaths were random accidents that occurred as a result of one bad decision, but there is a growing trend of social media models and photographers who purposely choose to risk their lives to take photos in dangerous areas. As the study pointed out, this trend is especially popular in Russia, where models like Angela Nikolau have developed large followings thanks to this shocking style of photography.
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Nikolau is a professional and likely has crews on standby to assist her, but there are still many things that can go wrong during such dangerous shoots, even with an entire team on hand to help. Having help, however, is a rare luxury for “roof toppers,” which makes the task even more dangerous.
The “roof topping” phenomenon reportedly began in 2011, when a Canadian named Tom Ryaboi sat on the edge of a Toronto skyscraper and took a picture of his legs.
Ryaboi said in a blog post after his photo went viral:
“This is where things get hazy. You see, coming out of the hatch of an epic skyscraper in the middle of the city, for the first time, is really hard to put into words. I guess it’s what I imagine a caged bird would feel if you leave the gate open, a warm rush fills your chest and for a moment, everything slides away and nothing can touch you, you are truly free.“
“Keep shooting. One photo can change your life,” he added.
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Ryobi’s picture was titled “I’ll make you famous,” and did bring him a large following, but it also inspired many other fame-seekers to take similar risks, sometimes with deadly results.
Last year, Vishnu and Meenakshi Moorthy, two software engineers and travel bloggers from India who had been living and working in Silicon Valley, were killed by an 800-foot fall at Yosemite National Park. Their deaths came just months after the couple posted a breathtaking picture with a caption that said “Is our life just worth one photo?”
Selfie deaths aren’t always caused by falls. Attempting to get close up to wild animals for a picture has also taken numerous lives.
Wikipedia has kept a running list of people who were killed or injured while trying to take selfies since 2011.
In 2015, a report from Mashable noted that more people are actually killed taking selfies than were killed in shark attacks the previous year. These findings led many other outlets to extrapolate that taking a selfie is actually more dangerous than smoking cannabis.