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Friday, 05 October 2018


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I read this piece and this post today. Really good advice. I might include an obvious contribution to the unfortunately conclusions. It is a comment often right before these sort of events. "Here, hold my beer and watch this"

Maybe it's just my sick sense of humor, but this post made me laugh more than cry. In my opinion, the real lesson here is not to indulge in obvious life-threatening activities. Any one of these idiots was likely to die from what they were doing, regardless of whether someone else was photographing them or not.

Seems to me most of these simply come under “Darwin Awards”.

I find it morbidly interesting, and ineffably sad, that these deaths occurred because of the intersection of photography and what we are currently calling "social media." I had not really thought of photography as a potentially life-threatening pursuit except in extreme, intentional circumstances (e.g. combat photographers, mountain climbing photography (Galen Rowell comes to mind)) and so on. I am sure that designers of the iPhone and its ilk did not foresee this as a consequence of the current technological state of things.

I'm pretty sure you're not entirely serious about blaming selfies in these cases; there is, I think you'll agree, a difference between "selfies are lethal" and "doing incredibly stupid, dangerous things is lethal." The fact that the stupid, dangerous thing was done for the purpose of photographing it is secondary, though certainly a contributing factor. "Use a photographer" is the wrong solution; "Don't do stupid, dangerous things" is a better one. Pointing a gun at your own head is a bad idea under just about any circumstances, but if you're going to do it, first make sure the gun is not loaded. Which means you'd better know enough about that particular type of gun to be able to tell. People have died because they thought a semi-automatic pistol was unloaded when they'd removed the magazine, not realizing there was still a round in the chamber. Guitarist Terry Kath of Chicago accidentally shot himself in 1978 because of that mistake.

Personally, I think most selfies are horrible photographs, and it might be arguable that for that reason alone they ought to be lethal... but I've seen some very good, striking ones as well. Usually the good ones are taken with the aid of a mirror to avoid that annoying "huge arm stretched out to the side of the frame" effect.

Don’t want to see people killed, but still, many of these are serious cases of Darwin Award....

The extensive publicity granted to this study fails to point out that this is just another example of Darwinian evolution. The Darwin Awards are given to individuals who contribute to human advancement by removing themselves from the gene pool before they can reproduce. Not all photographers are as smart as the readers of this blog.

"The study's conclusion is that "No Selfie Zones" should be declared in places known to be dangerous to decrease the incidence of selfie-related deaths."

Or increase, as idiots try to take selfies while standing next to the sign...

You just can't make the world idiot-proof...

So it should be "hold my camera" instead of "hold my beer"?

Agreed. However the excellent documentary "Bridegroom" is about someone who did use a photographer, and that photographer tragically died in a fall while taking photos. Trailer:


Everyone please be very careful.

There's a poll for that:


Well, anything that happens millions of times a day will correlate with deaths. How many people died while farting yesterday?

I thought death by electrocution would be due to people getting into high voltage substations, but it seems that many were killed by the high voltage wires or rails that feed electric trains.

We've covered the deaths from being hit by a train while taking pictures but people just can't keep away, it seems.

The definition (I think it's in our electrical regulations) of high voltage is 1,000 volts or more. I'm an electrician and it scares me.

I've worked on ancient, live three phase control cabinets where hardly anything is sheathed; the 415 volts you get with a three phase supply will easily stop your heart and it's far more effective at it than our (UK) domestic 240 volts. There are ways to minimise the risk but it's not a good idea to discuss them here.

As the voltage increases it gets nastier; at 11,000 volts even if the supply to a cable is disconnected it will still hold a lethal electrical charge. I've watched carefully as a disconnected 11,000 volt cable was deliberately discharged to earth before I was allowed to go near it. This might happen at lower voltages too.

There are 93 million selfies taken every day, 3.4 billion a year. 259 deaths in 5 years is roughly 50 people per year.

The odds of being killed by taking a selfie are therefore about 1 in 68 million. Some other odds of dying:

* lightning (1 in 700,000)
* bee sting (1 in 6 million)
* terrorist attack (1 in 20 million)
* shark attack (1 in 11.5 million)
* skydiving ( 1 in 100,000)
* murder (1 in 18,690)
* by your own furniture (1 in 20 million)
* lack of clean water (1 in 2,050) This kills more people than war :(

Statistically speaking, taking a selfie may be one of the safer endeavors you might enjoy.
Risks are relative.

[Personally I had the opposite takeaway: that if 259 people died, it means that thousands were injured and tens or hundreds of thousands are experiencing close calls or are getting away with risks. How many people drive drunk vs. the number that are killed while driving drunk?

I think it's quite likely people don't realize the danger they put themselves in. (For instance, my risk of dying while skydiving is zero, because I will never skydive. My only risk from the activity is being hit by a skydiver whose parachute failed to open while I'm standing on the ground.) Personally, what I want is for people to stop driving drunk...and we've made great progress on that front. And, personally, what I would want is for people to stop putting their lives in danger while practicing the hobby that I've loved all my life. Or, if they do put themselves in danger, to at least realize what they're doing when they do it. --Mike]

I would love to hear what Bill Burr has to say about this.

So if a would be selfie-taker hands their phone to a stranger and asks them to snap a photo, said selfie taker then needs written consent from the stranger (photographer) to allow use of that photo. I wonder how many tourists never consider that they don't actually own the rights to photos they ask others to take on their own camera.

[No they don't. Classic case of Orphaned Work.


IANAL. --Mike]

But ... didn’t you just post a selfie in your previous post? OK, it’s only part of your arm but a selfie doesn’t have to the whole body :-)

[I swear no risks were taken in the making of that pic. --Mike]

While asking someone else to take a possible dangerous ‘selfie’, (and be a co-conspirator) maybe a some kind of other message on a sign that would discourage the dangerous act to begin with? Something like:
“This could be your last selfie - Think safe, be safe”, or maybe, “Would your love ones have only your last Facebook post to remember you by?”... something similar, and of course not facilitating the already suicidal... this could be something like a very simple message that comes up on the screen of the phones when used in the selfie mode... “Beware of Selfie Danger”... this could give the phone makers a legal disclaimer...

A big problem with statistics for unwanted events is that they're often given without the all important denominator. They don't say so many deaths per participant year, per hour of activity, per lifetime, per distance travelled, per unit of useful output, or per event (eg per skydive).

And readers will make comparisons between these stats that have very different denominators, and thus get a very false idea of the comparative riskiness of activities.

Reminded me of this photographer error:


A professional I know told me of two or three cases of photographers working on rooftops falling through skylights and passing on.

I must admit I share Gordon’s reaction to all of these. As John Cleese once said, ”Solemnity, on the other hand… I don't know what it's for.”


I ‘ear you! Ah for the days of Van Gogh.

Delhi Woman taking selfie falls to death in Maharashtra
TIMES OF INDIA Jun 21, 2018, 13:22 IST

NAVI MUMBAI: A 35-year-old homemaker from south Delhi died after falling into a 900-ft deep valley while taking a selfie with her husband at Matheran. The incident took place on Tuesday evening, hours after the family of five reached the popular hill station in Raigad district after visiting a relative in Pune.

I’ve never really thought about selfies much. I just assumed it was something teenagers did as they competed for “likes” on a global level. My first personal smart phone is less than a year old and I have taken exactly one selfie. I wanted to show a sibling my sad state after mohs surgery. I stuck my tongue out for the shot.

When I search on the term “psychological reasons for taking selfies”, it seems the research is just getting started. One finding seems to be a difference between male and female study subjects which is kind of interesting. It also seems that many of the study subjects are young (compared to me anyway) and I think the poor decision making of youth may account for much of the danger being associated with selfies. I know I sure did some stupid things in cars as a teenager.

FYI – It seems that back in 2014 there was a report that claimed that the American Psychiatric Association had classed “selfitis” as a new mental disorder but that turned out to be a hoax.

Hard to TOP; even if you wanted to!

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