We’ve seen some pretty crazy things happen this past year. Everything from Category 5 hurricanes, earthquakes and a shark attack that was broadcasted worldwide in the middle of a competition. During the course of 2015, many lives were lost, eight of them being from fatal shark attacks. Yet, disturbingly enough 12 people lost their life trying to get that perfect selfie. Why is the news filled with all of these stories about dangerous animals, but nothing covering the dangers we put ourselves in?
Sharks are incredible creatures that have existed for hundreds of millions of years, evolutionarily designed to be a survival machine of pure natural beauty. After the live stream of a shark attack incident this year (see here), there was a huge cry for “shark hunting” to remove them from the oceans. As a surfer, seeing sharks is not uncommon, but they are not at all the ferocious, aggressive creatures they are made out to be, and, despite this, we are still eradicating them. This brings up the question of why are we not taking the same measures to minimize or mitigate the selfie-taking phenomenon?
Selfie-shooters have fallen off of cliffs, crashed cars and trucks, electrocuted themselves and been mauled by wildlife (no, not sharks), all in the attempt to get the perfect selfie! At what point do we stop blaming nature and start taking responsibility for our blatant disregard for common sense’s ability to see danger, and our preservation instincts to make sure we don’t die.
Some of the most unusual reported cases of “death by selfie” over the course of 2015 were a tourist in Indonesia who fell into the mouth of an active volcano; off the coast of Bali, a man fell off the cliffs; three college students stood in front of an oncoming train in India. You could argue that all these cases occurred abroad. Unfortunately, the cases in the U.S. have been a little more gruesome. Many nature park visitors have fallen victim to what professionals call “the Disney effect,” in which we fall victim to the false impression that all wildlife is cute and cuddly. In Yellowstone Park, individuals have been going within feet of 2,000 pound bears, just for that perfect selfie. Unfortunately, in some cases, the picture was the only thing that made it.
Some countries have already started to combat this phenomenon. In 2015, the Russian Interior Ministry launched a multi-platform “Safe Selfies” campaign, promoting statements like “a cool selfie could cost you your life” and “a million likes isn’t worth a lost life.” Other places such as the University of Utah Valley implemented a separate walk lane for texters on their stairwells.
At what point did we become so self-absorbed and seeking external reward from likes and comments on social media platforms that don’t even exist in physical form. That it became worth the risk of personal injury and death, just for a picture? We are quick to destroy wildlife that simply acts in its own nature, but we do little to destroy our own behaviors. So remember to say cheese and show some teeth!