Scott Hollifield: Death by selfie -- A major public health problem?

According to a new scientific study of stupid behavior leading to terrible yet predictable consequences, more than 250 people have been killed in the last six years taking selfies, those “look at me and where I’m at and what cool stuff I’m doing” photos often wedged between vicious political rants on Facebook.

Researchers associated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a group of colleges based in New Delhi, analyzed news reports of the 259 selfie-related deaths from October 2011 to November 2017, according to a story from The Washington Post, the source I turn to for stories about technology-related fatalities and circus-like Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

And what was the conclusion of this analysis?

“The selfie deaths have become a major public health problem,” Agam Bansal, the study’s lead author, told The Post.

I contend “major public health problem” may be a tad of an overstatement. Two-hundred-fifty-nine deaths over a six-year period come to just over 43 deaths per year. Any death is a tragedy, of course, but are 43 worldwide per year a major health crisis?

A 2016 paper on international lighting deaths found reports of more than 4,000 fatal strikes reported annually in 24 countries.

According to the International Shark Attack File, there were 88 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks on humans in 2017.

According to Injury Facts 2017, 5,051 people died from choking in 2015.

Still, since selfie deaths have now been declared a major threat to life as we know it, I, as the interim senior technology/public health correspondent for this award-winning publication, have come up the following Q&A to help you do it yourself safely.

Q. Hey, Scott, I wanted really make my Facebook profile picture pop, so I’m thinking about taking a boat out into shark-infested waters during a thunderstorm and eating a foot-long hot dog while I bob up and down surrounded by bloody chum. Is this something you wound recommend?

A. Absolutely not! You are pushing the envelope of major public health problems, including death by selfie, a fatal lightning strike, a shark attack that cannot be ruled entirely unprovoked due to the bloody chum and getting a hunk of processed meat stuck in your goozle. Plus, researchers found that most selfie deaths involved drowning. The odds of surviving this photo opportunity are slim to none, though it will probably get a lot of likes on your memorial page.

Q. To prove what a bad-ass I am, I want to steal a Siberian tiger from the zoo, take it over to the railroad bridge, duct-tape it to my back, climb up to the top and pose standing on the railing and swinging on high-voltage wires while I show off my tattoos and that sweet 9 mil my cousin got me for Christmas. Is this something you would recommend for a rocking selfie?

A. Again, no. Do not do this. While drowning was the deadliest selfie activity it was “followed by incidents involving transportation — for example, taking a selfie in front of an oncoming train — and falling from heights,” according to the Post story. “Other causes of selfie-related deaths include animals, firearms and electrocution.”

Q. Should I take a selfie kissing a sleeping grizzly bear on the ear?

A. No.

Q. Should I take a selfie peeing on an electric fence while shot-gunning a 24-ounce Natty Ice?

A. No.

Q. Should I take a few selfies later at the confirmation keg party with Squi, PJ and Timmy?

A. It might not prove fatal but it wouldn’t be a good idea. Just put it on your calendar and it will turn out fine.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews.com .

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