Selfie-related deaths rise as pandemic improves

RIO — Taking a photo of yourself, or just “taking a selfie”, is not always as harmless as it seems. In addition to the dangers of exposure on social media, there is a trend that grows every year: registrations in dangerous places or in risky situations. And the concern of specialists with the trend is not for nothing. According to a study published last week in the journal Journal of Travel Medicine, at least 379 people died between January 2008 and July 2021 while taking a selfie considered dangerous.

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The number, which had decreased with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, rose again rapidly with the improvement of the epidemiological situation in several countries, reaching 31 deaths only in the first seven months of 2021, equivalent to, on average , one death per week.

The study that raised these numbers was conducted by researchers at the iO Foundation, a scientific organization in Madrid, Spain that specializes in tropical and traveler medicine. The researchers also observed which were the places with the highest incidence of accidents related to selfies. The country that recorded the most deaths of this type was India, with 100 cases, followed by the United States, with 39, and Russia in third place, with 33. Brazil occupies fifth place on the list, which has more than 50 countries , with 17 cases identified during the period analyzed.

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Another data raised by the researchers were the 10 places in the world where there were more deaths from risky selfies. These were Niagara Falls, on the border between the US and Canada; Mlango Falls in Kenya; the Taj Mahal and the Doodhpathri Valley in India; the Langkawi Archipelago in Malaysia; the Ural Mountains in Russia; the Charco del Burro, in Colombia; Nusa Lembongan Island, Indonesia; Glen Canyon, in the USA and, finally, the beach in the city of Penha, in Santa Catarina, Brazil.

The place, in the south of the country, even registered one of the 31 deaths in the world in 2021, on January 17, when 28-year-old teacher Soliane Luiza fell off the Ponta do Vigia coast while taking a selfie. After falling off the rock, the victim was dragged by a wave and was rescued by firefighters, but had a cardiopulmonary arrest and died before reaching the hospital.

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The iO Foundation study draws attention, however, that it is not just tourists who end up losing their lives in risky selfie situations. According to the survey, while 141 deaths were of people who were traveling, 238 people died in the place where they lived.

The survey was made possible thanks to an epidemiological intelligence tool called Heimdllr-Project, which can identify all the information published on the internet about this type of accident, such as news, in six languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Italian.

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The most common types of deaths involving selfies were from falls from places such as waterfalls, cliffs and roofs, which accounted for 216 of the 379 cases. Then, situations involving means of transport left 123 dead; 66 people died in drownings; 24 deaths were by firearm; 24 for electrical discharges and 17 for wild animals.

About 41% of the victims were teenagers up to 19 years old and 37% were young people aged between 20 and 19 years old. Furthermore, 60% of cases were men.

Social networks and the sensation seekers

A review by Australian researchers on the phenomenon published in December 2020 in the scientific journal Tourism Management Perspectives analyzed several studies related to the topic and pointed out that the sharing of selfies on social networks and the creation of identity on the internet are some of the causes raised by experts as responsible by the increase in this type of accident.

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Ana Carolina Peuker, postdoctoral doctor in psychology from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and CEO of Bee Touch, mental health startup, explains that there are mainly two factors that can explain the profile of the person who seeks these situations of risk when taking a selfie.

– The first is a phenomenon described in the literature as “absent present”, in which people are sometimes so connected with virtual reality that they end up minimizing aspects of their immediate environment, such as the risks involved in a situation – says the expert.

She explains that social networks create a reality mediated by filters, images and the way people present themselves on social networks, which causes an increasing need for methods to attract attention.

According to the expert, there are already theorists who frame digital media and cell phones as the heroine of the 21st century, since the mechanisms responsible for drug addiction are also activated by the stimuli provided by the internet. This activation is linked to the so-called brain reward system, which is the circuit in the human mind that processes information related to the sensation of pleasure or satisfaction.

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The second factor raised by the psychologist would be a predisposition of some people to more impulsive behavior, a personality trait of the so-called sensation seekers (thrill seekers). Ana Carolina explains that this classification was created for people who naturally have an intense search for adrenaline situations and external stimulation, and who usually have less tolerance for monotony and frustration.

— We are also talking about a personality trait, it is an interaction of this trait with the environment created by social networks. Today we have a culture that reinforces this behavior. So the likes, the collective monitoring on the networks, they amplify those who are already more likely to look for risky situations.

*Intern under supervision of Adriana Dias Lopes

About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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