More people died from selfies than shark attacks this year, report says


Snapping a selfie proved to be more lethal than getting mauled by a shark in 2015, according to a recent report.

There have been at least 12 selfie-related deaths around the world this year —and although Mashable reported that eight people were killed by shark attacks this year, George Burgess, director of shark research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said the figure is actually six.

Lin Qiu — who conducted a study on selfies for Nanyang Technological University — said he was surprised by the alarming rates of people risking their lives to perform dangerous stunts like dangling from skyscrapers or posing with ammunition in order to get the perfect shot.

Most recently, a Japanese tourist plummeted to his death while posing for a photo at the Taj Mahal in India.

“When people are fully engaged in the self-expression process of selfies, they may be too focused on themselves and pay little attention to their surroundings, which may be inappropriate or dangerous,” Qiu said in an email.

Some countries have quickly caught on to the threats that snapping the perfect selfie can pose to photo-happy tourists.

Russian police recently launched a campaign urging people to take safer selfies following a handful of injuries and deaths, Reuters reported.

Russian authorities cautioned, “A cool selfie could cost you your life,” on posters and pamphlets across the country, according to the report.

In Australia, officials were forced to fence off a rickety 18-story rock following a number of people posing for pictures on it, according to The New Daily, a local Australian news outlet.

“Tourist marketing really shares the blame for many of these deaths,” Jill Walker Rettberg, professor of digital culture at the University of Bergen, said in an email.

“If we keep selling tourist destinations as extreme locations where you can get amazing photos of yourself on a cliff’s edge or with a bear, we are going to continue to see people getting into very dangerous situations in order to get those photos.”

Experts say people are putting themselves in life-threatening situations, just to get the perfect shot.

SIQUI SANCHEZ/GETTY IMAGES Experts say people are putting themselves in life-threatening situations, just to get the perfect shot.

This surge in selfie-related deaths should of course not deter tourists from taking precautions to prevent against shark attacks either, Burgess said.

While only six shark attack deaths were reported this year, there have been 68 unprovoked bites — on par for the annual average in the last few years, according to Burgess.

He urged swim enthusiasts to still take the necessary steps to minimize the risks, including refraining from wading through water between dusk and dawn and avoiding swimming inland where sharks chow down on acquatic life.

“Our playground is their dining room and we’ve got to do our best to avoid dangerous situations,” he said.

And although smartphones and cameras may not possess razor-sharp teeth or an insatiable appetite, Qiu said that being picture-perfect is not worth dying for and people should diminish the dangers involved.

“One way to reduce the risk is to remind people to be far more aware of the physical surroundings and social contexts when taking these selfies,” he said.

But Rettberg thinks the blame should be placed less on the selfies themselves and more on the extreme situations people put themselves in.

“The problem isn’t selfies, it’s that rush of excitement — the adrenaline rush of standing by a cliff or too close to a glacier or holding a gun to our heads,” she said.