Death by selfie


    By Richard Gammill
    Special to The PREVIEW
    Phones that take pictures are now in every hand, giving rise to a new concern.
    During my two recent visits in India, I witnessed a huge increase in selfie-taking over what I saw on previous trips. Scores of uplifted hands taking selfies surrounded me at the gate of the Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata. It looked like a fun activity until I saw warnings posted about the dangers of taking selfies. What’s going on?
    I learned that of more than 50 recent “selfie deaths” around the world, half occurred in India. I read a news account about two young Indian men who were attempting to take selfies on the bank of a swollen river, when they both fell in. Searchers had recovered the body of one, but had not found the other. A Japanese tourist fell on the steps of the Taj Mahal while attempting to take a selfie, fatally fracturing his head. Organizers of the massive Hindu religious gathering called the Kumbh Mela established no-selfie zones in certain areas because they feared bottlenecks caused by selfie-takers could spark stampedes. Indians taking selfies died while posing in front of an oncoming train, in a boat that tipped over at a picnic, on a cliff that gave way and crumbled into a 60-foot ravine. Mumbai police have established “no selfie” zones at popular landmarks throughout the city.
    The concern is global. Spanish authorities passed a new law rendering it illegal for runners to carry any cameras or recording devices during the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Yet a nonparticipant, a 32-year-old Spaniard, was gored to death when he jumped into the running area to snap a selfie.
    The danger is also in our country. In the summer of 2015 alone, five tourists were gored for standing too close to Yellowstone bison, attempting to take selfies. So many people have taken #BearSelfies that the U.S. Forest Service issued an advisory warning visitors to keep their distance. A motorist leaning out to take a selfie crashed into a tree, severely injuring his two passengers. A rattlesnake bit a San Diego man while he was trying to take a selfie with the creature. His hospital stay, requiring dozens of doses of the antivenom CroFab, emergency room treatment and a few days in the hospital intensive care unit cost him a whopping $153,000. The list goes on.
    Exciting pictures with a close-up of the face of the photographer replace boring landscape and landmark photos that had human figures off in the distance. Our Facebook friends post countless selfies with their loved ones, including pets. Some critics of this phenomenon say our face gets in the way of the experience.
    The Huffington Post reported that millennials spend an estimated one hour every week taking selfies and, if this continues, they are on track to taking 25,700 selfies in their lifetime, according to one study. That is a lot of face time.
    Most of this is a lot of fun. One of my granddaughters, along with several of her teenage friends, is expert in creating very artistic selfies.
    Put your face in the picture if you wish, but keep the right perspective. As The Message translates I Corinthians 13:4: “Love cares more for others than for self.”
    And don’t back up.
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