In 2015, India had the highest number of selfie deaths in the world. Come 2016, the trend of taking risky selfies shows little signs of abating as another youth fell to his death in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu on Tuesday. According to reports, Karthick (25) was attempting to take selfies with his friends, under the influence of liquor, on the edge of a cliff called the Dolphinâ€™s Nose near Vattakanal village, when he fell off the ledge.
The selfie has fast evolved from a mere digital self-portrait on a smartphone to the extent that it is now a tool in political campaigns too. The evolution however, has hardly been all good.
The number of â€śselfie-deathsâ€ť has risen too as people across the world expose themselves to risky scenarios and situations in order to get that one epic selfie. Since just the beginning of the year, for instance, at least nine people have been killed or seriously injured by selfie attempts:
Seaside selfie gone wrong
In January this year, a boy and a girl slipped and fell to their deaths in the ocean as they were taking selfies near the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. When the duo slipped and fell, another friend also jumped into the water to save them. However, she also drowned in the high tide.
A picnic selfie that killed
In February, 18-year-old Sourabh Jagannath Chulbhar was out for a picnic with ten other classmates at the Waldevi dam. Sourabh was taking a selfie on a rock of the dam when he lost balance and fell. His friend Ajinkya Bhausaheb Gaikar jumped into the water, hoping to save him, but also ended up drowning.
The canal of death
A selfie claimed the lives of three students of Mandya Institute of Medical Sciences in February, who were trying to click pictures of themselves near an irrigation canal in Hulivana village, Karnataka. They had gone to the area to â€śplay in the waterâ€ť, and while attempting to capture the moment they fell into the 20-feet deep canal and drowned.
Post-exam selfie gone awry
In April, a 16-year-old boy lost his life after he attempted to climb a slippery rock at Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad for a selfie. On April 5, Manjeet Chowdhary arrived at the zoo with his family after having appeared for his board exams a day before. In the afternoon, Manjeet went to a restricted zone to capture a selfie, when he lost balance and fell into an artificial waterfall.
A giant miscalculation
On April 14, a man in Kerala was seriously injured while attempting to take a selfie with an elephant. The 37-year-old was trying to lure the resting giant with some bananas, hoping he would be able to capture a selfie. Displeased with the disturbance however, the elephant toppled the man with its trunk and even attacked him with its tusk. The mahouts rescued the man, but not before he sustained serious wounds on his thighs.
With the increased frequency of selfie-related deaths, even government authorities have been compelled to designate some places and events as no-selfie zones. In Mumbai, for instance, 16 no-selfie zones were identified after the death of three youths at the Bandra Bandstand area. While the enforcement was to be through posters and social media, they also planned to rope in the police for implementation. Last year, the Kumbh Mela in Nashik also declared no-selfie zones for the fear of stampedes.
This decision of the Kumbh Mela authorities was based on a study by volunteers of the Kumbathon and TCSâ€™s Gappa Goshti application, a collaboration instituted to deal with issues like traffic and crowd management for the mela. The study found that on July 14, 2015 (the flag hoisting day at the Ramkund Kumbh mela), people were putting themselves at risk taking selfies â€“ â€śon steps, higher elevations, some even on the shoulder of the other, over the barricade.â€ť
In an interview to DNA, the CEO of Kumbathon, Sandip Shinde, said, "It takes between 30 seconds to a minute for a person to take a selfie. But the problem is that the person gets completely engrossed with the phone camera, forgetting the surroundings. In a crowd as large as 60 lakh, estimated numbers for the parvani days, if people stay engrossed taking their selfies in the river, on the banks or enroute, it could lead to a disaster. People wait, stop in between during the flow of the crowd and this could lead to a stampede.â€ť
As the frequency of selfie deaths grows around the world, studies have been conducted to ascertain why people put themselves at risk to get the perfect selfie. The reasons range from proving how â€śawesomeâ€ť you are to narcissistic tendencies. While, on the one hand, people may take selfies to express themselves, and preserve moments and memories they deem important, others may do so to put across an "inflated view of self," says Peter Gray writing in Psychology Today.
People also tend to post selfies during or after having faced risky scenarios/emergencies. Selfies taken during emergencies indicate a sense of self-importance whereby focusing the camera on oneself,
the narrative becomes about you and not the situation. Alternately, these selfies could also point towards a coping mechanism of sorts or a way to self-preserve.
While the reasons behind selfie-deaths continue to be analysed and debated, the phenomenon has grown large enough to earn its own Wikipedia list, which, despite listing only a fraction of cases, gives a sense of how widespread the phenomenon is.