Think before you Click – Sudha Subramanian, May 21, 2016



Ever thought there would come a day when we would be discussing ‘selfie death’? In case you are wondering what the term really means, here goes: It is not that taking a self portrait can kill someone. ‘Selfie deaths’ occur when people take pictures of themselves doing some death-defying stunts – except that they don’t defy death.

In 2015, there were about 27 selfie-related deaths world over, of which about half were in India. So, today, we have ‘no selfie zones’ in our country – nearly 16 of them. Large signboards and lifeguards will soon be put up to warn us about the possible risks of taking selfies.

How things change

The word ‘selfie’ did not exist when I was a kid. According to reports, it was first used in 2002 and is credited to a man in Australia. In 2013, it was declared “word of the year” by Oxford Dictionary.

There used to be a time when we relied on strangers and their ability to click photographs that could be treasured as memories for a lifetime. And then came this revolution that caught many of us unawares. Suddenly, we found a HD camera in our pockets and taking pictures was easy-peasy! What’s more, celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres were doing it and that too, during the Oscars. Naturally, selfies became the cool thing. And everyone with a phone got hooked on big time. With a huge screen that reflected our image and helped us correct our posture to get that perfect shot, our dependence on others disappeared. If that was not all, we were handed a stick that could capture us against a grand backdrop. It doesn’t get better than this, does it?

But what’s the point of a selfie, have you wondered? Well, they are taken primarily to show others what we have been up to. It is like a mini advertisement to promote ourselves. Obviously, the pictures we share on the social media are the ones taken at the best moments and those that can make us look – popular, cool and happy with our perfect lives. We are so eager to share our private and not-so private moments with the world! Just to let everyone know that we can afford that expensive restaurant or that flamboyant car.  Or perhaps we are rubbing shoulders with celebrities.

Counting the perils

What could possibly be the harm in taking a picture of yourself? The answer is manifold.

In an attempt to get more ‘likes’, selfies are often taken while in the middle of a daredevil act. Facebook and Instagram are flooded with pictures of people
hanging precariously from tall buildings or with wild animals in the background or along with a huge tidal wave. Unfortunately, these stunts have cost many their lives and yet, it has not stopped many others from clicking away. A simple search on Google for selfie-related deaths goes on to show that when people pose for pictures, say, in front of speeding trains, or with pointed guns, things can go seriously wrong.

We have become narcissists, guilty of taking multiple shots of ourselves, before we can share the best one. Very often, we even doctor the picture – think of all those filters — to give it that perfect look. The lack of judgment, living in the moment and an eagerness to tell others has led to ‘after sex’ selfie.

A disturbing set of pictures have made it to the social media. Selfies with dead people – be it teens with their dead grandparent or man with his dead girlfriend. In 2013, US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron came under fire for taking a selfie during the memorial service of Nelson Mandela. We are increasingly becoming insensitive as a society.

 Real-time sharing of personal pictures tells others where we are at the moment. Other than giving out information about the location, we are also revealing a bit of ourselves to the world out there. Sharing too much personal information is never a good idea.

A recent report said that this selfie epidemic is actually giving head lice to teenagers — as teens begin to put their heads together to click away. On a serious note though, our addiction to selfies has brought us closer to the camera than it has to actual people. We are wasting our precious time to tell the populace who don’t matter to us about who we are – or aspire to be.

Yes. We all have that impending urge to click away. Sadly, when we are in the act of taking that awesome shot, we tend to forget ourselves. We are too engrossed in the moment. We focus only on how we look in the shot. Our self-involvement has driven us to take selfies on occasions that don’t call for it, as often forget where we are and what we are there for.

We, probably, know deep down in our hearts that nobody really cares about what we do or where we have been, but reason defies us when we are in the act. It is about time we burst the bubble. Hundred likes is not equal to popularity. We should know we have hit rock bottom when there are ‘no selfie zones’. We have reached the stage where we need warning signboards to save us from ourselves. It is definitely time to wake up!