Nine days ago, a 17-year-old girl lost her life while trying to catch one of its fleeting moments in a selfie with friends at Marine Drive. Priti Pise isn’t the first who got so engrossed in getting the perfect frame that she had no thought to spare for her safety. A wave crashed on the parapet, dragging her into the raging waters on a high-tide day.
Even before ‘selfie’ was declared Word Of The Year by Oxford Dictionary in 2013, the phenomenon had laid siege to a whole generation as well as the demographic cohort succeeding it, that of Post-Millennials. The arc of the selfie plot saw many high points as celebrities began democratising it through social media, the followers following suit.
Then, the camera panned to the ancient approval-seeking motivation behind the selfie, driving the narrative of a self-obsessed generation ceaselessly photographing itself for display (read: likes and comments). Here’s when the story switched genres, as news of ‘selfie deaths’ began replacing ‘viral selfie’ in headlines, detailing how people fixated on flawless frames and the right flicks of hair had fallen to their deaths, or been in similar accidents. Enter the ‘Killer Selfie’, the kind that claimed Priti Pise.
The craze isn’t one to fizzle out in the face of fatality. Warnings and public service announcements beseeching the public to be cautious while angling for the perfect pose at a precarious and picturesque spot have been ignored.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Paramjeet Dahiya (Zone IX) said the police have covered the spectrum of safety measures from precautionary to preventive. “We deploy bandobast at selfie points when the tide is high. When the weather is rough, we request the people not to go near the sea to take selfies. The personnel on bandobast are sufficiently briefed not to let people pull dangerous stunts,” the DCP said.
The Mumbai police also urge citizens to be alert through tweets. On June 28, they tweeted #SafeMonsoonTips: “Don’t make ‘taking a selfie’ mean ‘taking your own life’.” Last year, it was #SafetyBeforeSelfie: “Selfies prohibited as no one wants you dead’
To boot, they are considering a proposal to declare 15 hazardous sites in the city as ‘selfiefree points’.
Across the globe, India has witnessed far more selfie deaths than any other country between March 2014 and September 2016, says a collaborative study, Me, Myself and My Killfie: Characterizing and Preventing Selfie Deaths, by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Indraprastha Institute of Information Delhi. Of the 127 reported selfie deaths, 76 happened in India.
Speaking about the psyche behind this fad, clinical psychologist Salma Prabhu said, “The craze is indeed too much, not just in youngsters, but also adults. Capturing an element of thrill and posting immediately on Facebook, Instagram or SnapChat is the mantra. The number of views, likes, loves, wows, RTs and followers are important. Comments fill up the vacuum of self-esteem. No one wants to be left out.”
And the mass support that a psyche needs to develop — publicity blitzkrieg, ignorance of nuance, loss of care, copycat behaviour — is all too readily available online.
Plus, technology relentlessly reinvents the craze. Manufacturers release phones specifically designed to click the ‘perfect selfie’. Props like selfie sticks bolster it. “It’s great, except that we get too excited and take undue risks. The number of likes are of no use if you are dead,” said Prabhu, advising parents to counsel their children in a “language they understand”.
Selfie deaths in Mumbai
May 9, 2016: Tarannum Ansari, an 18-year-old student from SNDT College, was swept into the Bandra sea while taking a selfie with her friends. Ramesh Walunj jumped in to save her but lost his life. Tarannum’s brother, Ishaq, said: “I want to appeal to youngsters to take care of their safety first. Life will offer many photo-moments if you’re alive.” Walunje’s wife, Kalpana, 36, has been struggling to raise their three minor children. “My husband jumped off to help a young girl but I don’t think youngsters have learnt any lesson from the tragedy. Please don’t risk your life for the sake of a selfie,” she urged youngsters.
May 15, 2017: Engineering student Meenakshi Rajesh, 21, from Tamil Nadu drowned at Bandstand while taking a selfie with her mother and sister at the edge of a rocky patch. A wave hit her and she lost balance.
June 27, 2017: Priti Pise from Chunabhatti visited Marine Drive with friends when she drowned. Her father, Shrikrishna, said Priti wasn’t taking a selfie, but went on to urge caution. “We parents give everything to raise our children. Losing them because of such accidents is unbearable trauma. Please don’t play with your life to take a selfie,” he said, hesitating while saying that maybe a ban is warranted.
Online Source: The Times Of India