More People Die From Selfies Than Shark Attacks, Says Study

Photo: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock
women taking selfies together

What's scarier: a shark attack or taking a selfie? It turns out that taking a selfie should be scarier, as only 8 people have died from shark attacks this year, while 12 people have died taking selfies.

There are many precautionary things you can do to avoid being attacked by a shark: don't swim in areas where a recent shark attack has occurred, don't wear brightly colored swimwear (it makes you look like a flashy fish), and don't swim in open water if you have a bleeding cut, open wound or are on your period. Sharks are attracted to blood and human waste. 

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Occasionally, a shark can come out of nowhere, but if you're careful and do the research your chances of getting attacked are small.

Cell phone cameras generally don't attack their user, so when someone is hurt or killed while taking a picture of themselves, it's usually because the person is unaware of their surroundings, not being careful, and/or blatantly disregarding any danger they might be in — just so they can get a good shot to share with their friends on social media. 

There are people who are taking selfies and texting while driving, which combines two stupid behaviors into one gigantic really dumb thing to do.

But what is it about taking a picture of oneself that seems to make good judgment and smarts go out the window?

Of the 12 people who died from selfie-related causes, 4 were due to falling, the most recent one being a 66-year-old Japanese tourist, Hideto Ueda, who fell down a flight of stairs while trying to take a selfie at the Taj Mahal in India. In May, a Singaporean tourist died when falling from the cliffs off the coast of Bali while attempting to get that perfect selfie-shot. 

But it isn't just falling while trying to take a picture that's harming so many people; it's all kinds of dangerous situations such as pictures with wild animals — like bears. Selfies with bears even caused the closure of a park in Denver, Colorado after visitors wouldn't stop getting too close to the animals to get a great picture.

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"The current situation is not conducive for the safety of the visitors or the well-being of the wildlife," said the park manager of the site. "We've actually seen people using selfie sticks to try and get as close to the bears as possible, sometimes within ten feet of wild bears."

You wouldn't coat yourself in honey if you were in bear-country, so why would you assume that it's safe to try and get a selfie with a bear?

Another selfie favorite is to take a picture with a weapon, such as the two men who accidentally blew themselves up in the Russian Ural mountains while posing with a live grenade. The picture (saved to the camera roll on one of the men's phones) lives on, while the two men do not.

Russian police have started a campaign urging people to take safer selfies. "A cool selfie could cost your life," the interior minister warned in a new leaflet. "Unfortunately, we have noted recently that the number of accidents caused by lovers of self-photography is constantly increasing."

People are killing themselves — by being struck by trains, by climbing on bridges, and during a bull run in a Spanish town. Suicide by selfie may not be intentional but it's happening.

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The next time you want to take a selfie, take the time to notice your surroundings. Are you in a potentially dangerous situation? Will the world continue to turn if you don't get that shot with a rattlesnake?

No picture, no matter how many likes and shares it gets, is worth risking your life for. Don't go out in the water when you're bleeding, and don't take a picture of you and your good buddy Jaws. It's just common sense.

Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, and Woman's Day. Visit her website.