Take a selfie or die trying? If you’re not careful, taking a selfie could be the last thing you do.
By: Sascha Segan/PC MAGAZINE
Selfies can be a scourge. I like mobile technology more than most people, but sometimes you really have to put down the phone.
This week, the National Transportation Safety Board blamed selfie-taking for a tragic small plane crash last spring in Colorado, saying that pilot Amritpal Singh suffered “spatial disorientation” because he was fooling around on his phone rather than paying attention to where his plane was going.
“Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s distraction due to his cell phone use while maneuvering at low-altitude,” the official NTSB report says.
Before you say, “whatever, Darwin Award” let’s remember that Singh had a passenger, and that a misguided plane makes one heck of a deadly missile. If you’re taking a selfie while operating a moving vehicle, you’re endangering others, not just yourself.
It’s about situational awareness. Selfies are more dangerous than traditional photography because you’re snapping something behind you. If you’re driving, you’re not paying attention to the road or sky ahead. If you’re standing, you’re more likely to stumble or be surprised because all of our internal balance and proprioception mechanisms work poorly when we’re walking backwards.
Take this story as a lesson about when you shouldn’t be taking selfies.
If you drive a car every day, you may forget that it’s a multi-ton piece of steel careening at 50-plus miles an hour, ready to spin out of your control and kill you. Usually, you can control that by keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. That’s a reasonable level of care.
On the other hand, snapping Facebook selfies of yourself while driving down the highway is not a reasonable level of care. That’s the sad lesson learned from Courtney Sanford, who was documenting her commute when she crossed into the opposite lanes on I-85 and hit a truck.
Ford told me that texting while driving is the No. 1 most dangerous common thing people can do in a car. (I say “common” thing because, sure, you can do crazy stuff like change your clothes while driving, but this is the big killer.) Put. The. Phone. Down.
While Holding a Loaded Gun
Too many idiots have guns, something we read about every day in the news here in the U.S. I’m not a gun owner, but I understand the No. 1 rule of gun ownership: if it’s loaded, act like it could go off at any time. Also, don’t drink.
Oscar Aguilar was drinking with a bunch of friends at his buddy’s house in Mexico City and decided to take a photo of his new piece and post it to Facebook. But it was loaded. He shot himself in the head.
On a Cliff
A Polish couple fell to their death in August after climbing over a safety railing so they could take a selfie closer to the edge of a cliff in Portugal. Their 5 and 6 year old children, who witnessed the death of their parents, are now traumatized orphans. If you go somewhere that there’s a safety railing, it’s probably there because it should be.
On a Bridge With No Safety Railing
Russian teen Xenia Ignatyeva wanted to take a photo of herself with a dramatic background, so she climbed to the top of a railroad bridge. She toppled backwards, grabbed a high-voltage cable in an attempt to stabilize herself, and was electrocuted.
In my mind, this one is a little less selfie-focused and more about the teenage fascination with subway surfing and other dangerous forms of railway exploration. Trains: don’t underestimate them.
By the Edge of a River
Another Polish tourist, Sylwia Rajchel, apparently deicided to get as close as possible to a river in Seville, Spain, so she could get a better angle for her selfie with the bridge in the background. She fell into the river and died.
This has actually happened more than once: teenager Karen Hernandez fell into a river in Mexico while trying to get a selfie as close to the river as possible. Rivers: don’t underestimate them.
While Being Chased by Bears or Bulls
This wasn’t lethal, but it sure was stupid. Francois Hofer was attending a bull run in Bayonne, France, when he decided to prance around the street like an idiot trying to get a photo with the bull. He was trampled. He’s fine, but he was trampled. Another onlooker got a video and didn’t get trampled, probably because he had the bull in front of him, not behind him.
Nobody has yet been killed by bears while taking selfies in U.S. national parks, but it’s really starting to worry the authorities. Officials in the Lake Tahoe area are concerned that too many people are trying to take selfies with bears, without paying attention to the fact that bears are wild animals which maul people. This is another one of those “situational awareness” things – if you’re that close to a bear, you should be thinking about where the bear is, and not standing calmly while you try to frame the bear behind you.
Fake, But All Too Real
Two viral stories about selfie-related deaths are fakes, but they’re believable enough that many people think they’re real.
Millions of people are apparently waiting for someone to impale themselves on a selfie stick. So when a blogger called the “Angry Snowboarder”posted a fake news story about an amateur snowboarder impaling himself on a GoPole (a high-end selfie stick used with GoPro action cameras), plenty of people believed it.
Last year, fake news site “World News Daily Report” published a story about a swimmer getting eaten by a shark mid-selfie, although that turned out to be a photo collage involving Pete Wentz, the front man of the popular early-00s band Fall Out Boy. Wentz remains uneaten.