For as long as there have been cameras, there have been photos of people doing interesting or silly or dangerous things, often in exotic locales. The difference is that until the latter part of the 20th century, somebody else had to shoot the subject, or the use of a cable release or timer was required. (For a vivid illustration of how much photography has changed over the years, consider these 50 photos from American life in the 19th century.)
Then came smartphones with self-facing cameras and selfie sticks and fancy filters to turn the taking and enhancing of self-portraits into a whole new game. The term “selfie” was first recorded in Australia in 2002. By 2013 it had become common enough to get itself dubbed “word of the year” by the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary. These are 30 words that didn’t exist 30 years ago.
Selfies are fun. They’re a way of sharing our lives with others; of recording things we’ve done, places we’ve been, people we’ve shared moments with; of — let’s admit it — showing off. They can also be deadly — literally.
According to one study, there were 259 selfie-related deaths around the world between October 2011 and November 2017 alone — the overwhelming majority of them, for some reason, in India. Many of these involved trains — people standing on tracks or climbing on top of railway cars, where they either got knocked off or were electrocuted. Falls from high places and drownings were also common, as people sought to capture startling images with a sense of danger that all too often turned out to be real.
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of 25 fatal selfie accidents from five continents that seem particularly unfortunate because the deaths resulted from behavior that any thinking person should have known enough to avoid (always assume a gun is loaded; don’t think that wild animals are your friends; what goes up must come down.)
We culled these examples of ostensibly preventable selfie-related fatalities from an extensively sourced and annotated page on Wikipedia, citing some 222 newspaper, magazine, and online reports from around the world.
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