The strange, fascinating and dangerous world of selfies

The cliffs at Cabo Da Roca in #Portugal overlooking the #AtlanticOcean offer astonishing views from the top.Which is the case with most #Capes as they are usually a raised mass of land extending into the sea.What makes the #CaboDaRoca a wee bit more special is that it is the #WesternMost point in all of #Europe but that is about it. In recent years it has become (in)famous for the ghastly incident of 2014 when a #Polish couple who were there with their two young children (aged 5 & 6) fell to their deaths when they inadvertently stepped over the safety barrier. All this with the kids watching, hoping for that perfect #Selfie. This is not an isolated incident. Far from. People are standing in front of approaching #Trains when they are not climbing on top of them often meeting with disastrous consequences. There was this person who drowned while trying to get a selfie hugging a #Walrus while another lost almost an entire arm posing with a #Rattlesnake. There are even folks naive enough to pose with a live grenade hoping to live to tell the tale.

Come to think of it the idea of a selfie is nothing new. What else is a portrait? To capture an image of oneself for posterity (though nowadays it is more for the #Likes) is nothing but an exercise in #Narcissism. And that has been done for centuries now. References of the word ‘Selfie’ in popular usage date back to early 2000s and users of the pioneering social networking portal #MySpace would know all about it. By the end of the decade, digital cameras and phones (with front facing cameras) as well as the immense popularity of photo sharing Apps ensured that selfies became the toast of social media on the internet. So much so that in the year #2013 the #Oxford English dictionary called Selfie as the word of the Year. A survey in #2014 showed that no less than a third of all photos that young people (under the age of 25) took were all selfies. Clearly a lot of people all over were hooked. And it was quite sad and ironical that the first reported death related to taking a Selfie photo was in 2014 – the Year of the Selfie.

In the last couple of years the death toll has only risen and alarmingly so. Statistics show that over hundred (127 at last count) people all over the world have died in their foolish (sometimes) pursuit of a ‘killer’ shot. Of which half have been reported from India alone and not suprisingly the authorities in the city of #Mumbai have identified upto 16 areas as #No-Selfie zones. Last year the government issued an advisory to all states of the country to identify such zones in their respective places, especially those popular with tourists & is running several innovative awareness campaigns in this very regard. Similar guidelines are being issued by various countries to it’s citizens and visitors alike so that this madness will ebb somehow. In #London there are many landmark locations where the use of selfie sticks (that make taking these photos easier) is strictly prohibited. Disney has banned the use of these selfie sticks at all of their world famous Theme Parks. Even researchers at Universities in the US and elsewhere are digging deeper to get a sense of what causes these deaths. And how to prevent them.

In the meanwhile unaffected by all this, the selfie #Juggernaut rolls on. Popular photo-sharing
platform #Instagram reports that last year alone over fifty million photos were tagged with the hashtag #selfie. While there are smartphones that are being pitched to potential customer using the line – The Selfie expert. The stakes just got higher. Watch this space for more.