Parkland Medical Center - March 16, 2020

Steps for safe selfies

A picture is worth 1,000 words, but it’s certainly not worth your life.

To impress social media fans and followers, some selfie-takers go to extreme lengths – posing on the edges of cliffs, bridges or tall buildings, snapping selfies with wild animals and pulling out the phone while rock or ice climbing.

With the popularity of the #selfie hashtag and other related #selfie tags on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, as well as copycats who want to duplicate poses, the once innocuous trend has turned deadly for some.

In 2019, for example, a college student fell 100 feet and died in the Ozark mountains while taking a selfie. Two tourists died in one week at the Grand Canyon last March (2019) taking photos.

The term “selfie” entered the dictionary in 2013. Just two years later, people were uploading as many as 93 million selfies each day – the equivalent of 2,583,333 rolls of film, according to a detailed study by a nonprofit group in Wisconsin. Teens spend as much as seven full workdays each year taking selfies, the study estimated. At the same time, researchers and medical professionals began to notice another disturbing trend – selfie-takers were dying. The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care found from October 2011 to November 2017, selfie taking led to 259 deaths in 137 incidents.

According to the study:

  • The mean age of those who died was about 23 years old.
  • Nearly three-quarters of the deceased were males and a quarter females.
  • The highest number of incidents and selfie-deaths were reported in India followed by Russia, the United States and Pakistan.
  • Drowning, transportation mishaps (most often shooting a picture near a train) and falling are the most common causes of selfie-related deaths.

Because of statistics like this, national parks now stress selfie safety. Lake Tahoe officials have asked parkgoers to stop taking selfies with bears. Part of Yellowstone National Park’s pledge is to practice safe selfies:

“No picture is worth hurting yourself, others, or the park. Be aware of your surroundings whether near wildlife, thermal areas, roads, or steep cliffs.”

Selfie safety dos and don’ts

  • Don’t take a selfie while crossing the street, driving, biking or using other moving equipment.
  • Don’t get on the edge a roof, cliff or ledge.
  • Don’t try to impress others by taking a risky selfie
  • Don’t put others in danger when taking a selfie
  • Don’t take a selfie with a weapon.
  • Do be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do follow park/attraction rules to stay behind railings.
  • Do take precautions near bodies of water and pools.

The bottom line is to use common sense. No amount of likes, shares or retweets is worth your life ­– and the grief you’ll cause your family and friends.