This Is How People Die While Taking Selfies

Life is fleeting. You might be the very picture of health, then one day you make the innocent decision to get a soda from a vending machine, with tragic results. Or you go on a beach vacation, only to end up being one of the six people killed by sharks each year. Or you take a selfie while walking in front of a moving train, hanging thousands of feet off the ground from a skyscraper, or handling an actual live grenade, and somehow — somehow — you end up dead. Any of those things could kill you, of course. But it’s the selfie (and that really ridiculous thing you did while snapping it) that’s statistically most likely to snuff out your life.


Since 2014, Priceonomics finds, 49 people have died in the act of taking modern-day self-portraits. Most of those people were barely out of their teens; their average age was 21. An overwhelming number, or 75 percent, were young men. And an awful lot were right in the middle of doing something conspicuously life-threatening, a fact made more obvious by a) the death itself and b) the snapshots left behind. The photos were meant to depict subjects as uniquely fearless or valorous. Instead, they serve as testaments to the lengths we humans will go to for social approval. At the end of the day, people are literally dying for “likes.”

Priceonomics breaks down exactly how victims succumbed in each documented case, while also noting there are likely cases that have gone unreported, in case this story isn’t morbid enough. “Falling from heights” topped the list as the cause of death for 16 of the deceased. Google these deaths and you’ll find the Russian teenager who plummeted to his death while taking an “extreme selfie” for his Instagram; the 68-year-old Belgian tourist and retired physician (who I’m not certain made Priceonomics’ roundup) who was essentially boiled to death when she fell into a Chilean geyser; and two Jakartan high school students who slipped off a cliff while trying to take a picture atop a waterfall. Other causes of death include drowning, trains, car crashes and the aforementioned grenade.

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Priceonomics points out that there are also several “truly bizarre cases”:

The 21-year-old Mexican man who accidentally shot himself in the head while taking a selfie with a gun. The Cessna pilot who crashed, killing both himself and a passenger, after his cellphone selfies led him to lose control of the aircraft. The two Russian teens who blew themselves up while posing for a selfie with a live grenade in the Ural Mountains. The man who attempted a selfie at the running of the bulls festival in Spain and was fatally gored in the neck.

The site also looked at where selfie deaths are taking place around the world. While no one country or culture stands alone in this area, India scored highest by a pretty good margin. That explains why Mumbai reportedly has “no selfie” zones where the photo-taking practice is banned.

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And here’s how Priceonomics finds selfies compare in frequency to other causes of death in 2015. Turns out the number of selfie-related deaths are on par with skateboarding fatalities, but less than fatal bee stings. That’s an impressively sad ranking for a phenomenon that didn’t even exist a few years ago. 

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The lesson overall for taking a selfie and living to tell about it is to avoid putting yourself in harm's way and watch where you're walking. 

“A lot of these so-called selfie deaths can be blamed more on carelessness than photography,” risk management professional Morgan O’Rourke told Priceonomics. “You have to be careful about taking shortcuts when trying to determine what is and isn’t threatening.”

(h/t Priceonomics)

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