“Men and women across the globe are taking extreme risks to get the perfect selfie — and paying the ultimate price with their life. Andrea Comi/Getty Images
Witnesses in Panama City, Panama, were horrified on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, when 44-year-old Sandra Manuela Da Costa Macedo plunged to her death from the 27th floor of the Luxor Tower after she was spotted — and videoed — by nearby construction workers while taking selfies from her balcony railing. The construction workers, who were concerned for Da Costa Macedo’s safety, were shouting at her to get down just seconds before she fell.
Unfortunately, stories like Da Costa Macedo’s are becoming more common. According to a new study from researchers associated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, at least 259 people have made the ultimate sacrifice for the perfect photo. That’s how many selfie-related deaths occurred between October 2011 and November 2017, anyway.
The study, published in the July/August 2018 edition of the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, analyzed news reports of the deaths, which lead author Agam Bansal called "a major public health problem" in a Washington Post article. The findings were illuminating, and more than a little disturbing: The leading cause of selfie death was drowning, followed by transportation-related accidents (like posing in front of an oncoming train) and falling. The mean age of victims was 22.94 years old.
"What worries me the most is that it is a preventable cause of death," Bansal told the Washington Post. "… Just because you want a perfect selfie because you want a lot of likes, shares on Facebook, Twitter or other social media, I don’t think this is worth compromising a life for such a thing."
While American selfie deaths have been widely reported in the States, India ranks as the country with the highest number (150), followed by Russia (16), the U.S. (14) and Pakistan (11). According to the analysis, most of the deaths were males — about 72.5 percent — the remaining were females. And while "risky behavior" caused more deaths and incidents than "non-risky behavior," females were less likely to die due to risky behavior than non-risky behavior. However, male deaths were almost three times more likely to be because of risky circumstances.
Researchers considered incidents "risky behavior" when it was "quite evident that the person took risk to click a selfie and lost her life." Scaling a slippery cliff edge to snap a selfie, for example, would be considered risky, while getting hit by an unexpected wave in calm waters would not.
Though the study only analyzed news reports up to November 2017, the number of selfie deaths doesn’t appear to be dwindling. Several stories have been widely reported, including one of a man in India who was mauled to death after trying to snap a selfie with an injured bear, and another of an 18-year-old hiker who fell more than 800 feet (243 meters) from a Yosemite National Park cliff.
While the news remains grim, the researchers have a recommendation they believe could help prevent future deaths: "’No selfie zones’" areas should be declared across tourist areas especially places such as water bodies, mountain peaks and over tall buildings to decrease the incidence of selfie-related deaths," the study concluded. That concept is already catching on in some places: Russia launched a "Safe Selfie" campaign three years ago, and Mumbai declared 16 "no selfie zones" in 2016.
The best way to stay safe? Practice common sense and remember no amount of likes is worth tragic consequences. So the moral of the story is to save your selfies for celeb encounters and avoid documenting scary scenarios — and maybe consider skipping the risky stuff altogether and just pass the time trying out weird face filters at home instead.
Now That’s Serious
According to some mental health professionals, selfie addiction is a real mental illness. One study suggests that chronic selfie-takers "have an uncontrollable urge to point their phone at their face and post the selfies on social media more than six times per day."