September 9, 2019

Death by Selfie.

Are selfies killing us?

Have you heard that there is a growing number of selfie-related deaths? As an Ayurvedic doctor, I decided to dive into this health risk.

Selfie death is typically caused by risks people take to get that perfect selfie. A study in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care suggests that this has become a real problem, with 259 selfie deaths reported from 2011 to 2017.

The researcher searched keywords such as, “selfie deaths; selfie accidents; selfie mortality; self photography deaths; koolfie deaths; mobile death/accidents” from news reports to gather information regarding selfie deaths.

Fact: Some 72 percent of all selfie deaths occur in males.

Fact: The mean age of selfie death is 23 years old.

Fact: Google estimates that 24 billion selfies were uploaded to Photos in 2015.

Fact: About one million selfies are clicked per day in 18-24‑year‑olds.

The study found that India had the highest rate of selfie deaths, with 159, followed by Russia, with 16, and the United States, with 14. Most of these deaths were due to risky behavior. There were four times as many deaths due to risky behavior in men as women (115 in men to 27 in women).

Read the following stats to learn about some risky selfie-death behaviors you might want to avoid:

The leading cause of death by selfies was drowning, with 70 deaths, followed by accidents involving cars or trains, with 51 deaths. Forty-eight people died by falling while taking a selfie, 48 people died by accidentally burning themselves to death, 16 by accidental electrocution, 11 by misuse of firearms, and 8 by getting too close to a dangerous animal.

The study concluded the following: No Selfie Zone areas should be declared across tourist areas, especially in places such as water bodies, mountain peaks, and tall buildings, to decrease incidences of selfie‑related deaths. In fact, in Mumbai, India, there are already posted No Selfie Zones.

Selfies, Dopamine, and the Bigger Questions

What is it about the human mindset that would think it okay to take a life-threatening risk to take a picture of yourself? Could this be a sign that we have just gone too far? Have we become a bit too selfish? Are we so addicted to attention and approval that a growing number of people are choosing to risk their lives to post an attention-grabbing selfie?

There is no doubt that this behavior, in part, revolves around our cultural addiction to the reward hormone dopamine. Being approved of, liked, shared, Snapchatted to, Instagrammed, or commented on is the new  high. It used to be shopping, but now we do that online, too, which takes a fraction of the time to get the same dopamine rush we used to have to work for. We had to drive to the mall, park, find the store, try something on a few times until we found the right fit, color, size, and fashion, and then, only once we swiped our credit card, we would get that dopamine-reward chemistry rush.

I recently interviewed a group of college freshmen, who reported that the number of selfies they take per hour ranges from 50 to zero (if they are busy doing other things), with an average of about five per hour. That’s five dopamine hits per hour! The rate at which we’re able to access this reward chemistry is steadily increasing with new technologies. In the past, if we were shopping in person, it would take many hours to cover five dopamine hits.

A few years ago, I wrote about how bad our addiction to shopping was and that we must replace the need for constant reward with giving, caring, and helping others. Perhaps the pendulum has swung far enough in the selfie, selfish, reward-addicted direction that we will start to take actions in the direction of more sustainable experiences of contentment.

Thinking that, somehow, repeatedly sourcing likes, taking selfies, or being shared will ever deliver lasting contentment just may be the new definition of insanity.

Ayurveda’s Selfie Solution

In what’s called critical analysis in the original texts, or self-inquiry today, we can still our minds, balance our bodies, and ask those deep questions. Who are we truly? Who we have become in order to adapt to and endure life’s stressors?

The goals of Ayurveda, Vedic psychology, yoga, breathing, and meditation were all to gain deep inner clarity, so we could then engage in transformational action steps (karma-breaking) to free ourselves from old unwanted patterns of behavior guaranteed to deliver the most temporary of satisfaction.

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