As a photographer I feel that I really need to speak out on the issue of whether it’s proper to risk your life for a selfie. I’ll admit that there are times when even I take the occasional selfie, such as these.
At least I’m standing on solid ground when I take selfies. Some people take their selfies a bit further than I ever would. These people, such as Kirill Vselensky and Angela Nikolau, have received a huge following on Instagram because of their penchant for taking selfies from really high places (like the beam of a skyscraper or the edge of a tall mountain).
Then there is this photograph of three teenaged girls, which has made the rounds of Facebook a few times for the past month or so. The girls were standing on a train track when a train whizzed past them on the opposite track. They decided to take a selfie as the train went past while blowing their hair. At the same time another train that was on the same track was approaching the three girls from behind while they were busy taking their selfie. Technically the photograph is well-composed, complete with the light from the oncoming train in the background producing a halo effect around the girls’ heads. It’s the kind of photo that the girls would’ve been proud of.
Unfortunately they didn’t live to enjoy the result of making such a well-composed selfie. The engineers on that oncoming train tried tooting the horn to warn the girls to get off the track but, for some reason that will never be fully known, the girls failed to listen to that train horn. The engineers tried to stop the train but the train hit the girls before it was able to make a full and complete stop. All three girls died as a result.
Sadly this tragedy is not an isolated incident. An Instagram user known as drewsssik had also gained a huge following for his death defying selfies. In 2015 he attempted to make a selfie where it looked like he was falling to his death from a rooftop. He was supposed to be suspended by a rope but the rope snapped and he really fell to his death. He was only 17.
There are plenty of other examples where people have literally died while taking a selfie. Yes, it’s true that there are times throughout history when photographers have literally risked their lives in order to take certain shots. Some of these have become well known, such as this photograph showing the 1968 execution of a Vietcong officer during the Vietnam War. In this case these photographers are trying to reveal the truth about a certain issue or story to as wide an audience as possible. The world would’ve been worse off had these brave photographers not revealed what was going on in a certain situation.
In contrast, dying for a selfie is far more unnecessary than dying to reveal a truth because selfies tend to be more self-indulgent. The people who take these selfies are basically thrill-seekers who want to impress people with their abilities to take selfies while standing from a tall ledge or mountain top. They exhibit a devil-may-care attitude while thinking that they will wow people online with their latest thrilling stunt selfie only to make a fatal error in judgement and they end up having their families bury them.
In short, these thrill-seeking selfie takers are needlessly throwing their lives away for no good reason other than to take a shot that may go viral on Instagram and other social media sites for a very brief time until a different photo or video replaces that shot as the most viral thing on social media.
There are legitimate reasons for risking your life. One is to defend the homeland against a foreign invader. Another is to fight a repressive regime. A third is to try saving someone else’s life in a dangerous situation. Taking a selfie in a dangerous place is NOT a legitimate reason for risking your life.
Think about the three teenaged girls whom I wrote about at the beginning of this post who died needlessly for taking a selfie on a railroad track. Two of them were 15 while the third was 13. They had their lives cut off at a very early age. They will never get to experience such things as getting a driver’s license, falling in love for the first time, going to the senior prom, graduating from high school, going to college or trade school, getting their first job, getting married, having children, traveling to a different location they had never been before, or meeting all kinds of interesting people throughout their lives. They will never get to experience all that life has to offer because of a selfie.
On top of it, their parents had to bear the tragic burden of burying their own children and they will have to live with the sad knowledge that they have outlived their own children for the rest of their lives. Add to the fact that the engineers on that train who tried tooting the horn and stopping the train only to fail to stop that train before it hit the girls will have to live with that nightmare for the rest of their lives. They will continuously ponder what else they could have done to make those girls get off the track while living with such horrible guilt. All this will happen because of a selfie.
If, for some reason, you feel tempted into taking such death-defying selfie, please read and re-read this post before you start risking your life foolishly.
A selfie is not worth dying for.