There is no denying that we live in a selfie-obsessed culture; just go, well, anywhere, and you'll see selfies being taken. A recent study in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care found over 250 verified "deaths by selfie" from October 2011 to November 2017, with a mean age of almost 23 years old. Has the fascination with recording ourselves wherever we go gone too far?
Kathryn Miles, a writer for Outside Magazine, digs into this question in her recent article titled "Selfie Deaths Are an Epidemic". She focuses on the story of Gigi Wu, a climber who was internet-famous for posting selfies of herself in bikinis on the peaks of various mountains. Wu died in January of this year after suffering a fall during a climb and ultimately succumbing to hyperthermia before rescuers could get to her. Miles uses the example of Wu and several other notable selfie-related deaths that have occurred recently to try to determine whether there is a difference between the sort of epic landscape photos we are used to seeing of these great natural mountains and heights and the selfie-centric images that have surged in popularity with the advent of social media.
To do this, Miles reached out to various social media and psychology experts, including Sarah Diefenbach, a professor of consumer psychology at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich and lead author of the 2017 research article The Selfie Paradox. Diefenbach suggested that, while the medium for selfies might be a recent development, the drive to control our images and communicate with our community is not. “We have always had a very basic need for self-presentation,” the professor explains.
The article is a fascinating read and gives an interesting perspective on the question of "how far is too far?" Has social media pushed us to the point of recklessness for the sake of followers and likes? At what point does the drive to #doitforthegram become a risk that outweighs the so-called rewards? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, but please, always make sure you are practicing good safety techniques wherever your photography might take you.