Dubai: The growing culture of selfies has now moved into a dangerous territory where people are placing themselves in harm’s way just to take a quick snap.
Last year alone, there were 27 deaths worldwide, of which half occurred in India, reported the Washington Post.
Some of the people injured or killed were reported to have been taking a selfie in front of an oncoming train, on the edge of a cliff, or tipped over the edge of a boat.
Growing up in the ‘i-generation’, many adolescents and young adults have fallen into the pattern of taking dozens of selfies every day and posting them on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram with the expectation of receiving comments praising them or a high number of likes. Some are even risking their own safety just to receive that sense of gratification from their online friends.
The selfie trend has often been criticised by many psychologists who described it as narcissistic behaviour and a call for attention.
Dubai’s Clinical psychologist, Dr Saliha Afridi, director of Light House Arabia, puts it down to two main explanations — the need for a thrill and the need for attention.
“It comes down to a person’s neurobiology and neurochemistry. A thrill seeker who previously didn’t have the mechanism of capturing their risky moment are able to thrill-seek and review attention at the same time through the selfie movement,” she said.
An attention seeker on the other hand, may be one who is so desperate for a big number of ‘likes’ online that they are willing to do increasingly sensational and original acts to receive the attention, explained Dr Afridi.
She pointed out that a person’s motivation to take a selfie in a high-risk situation could range from neurobiological and neurochemical differences that result in the dopamine reward being less reactive, to simply having low confidence. “Some people lack in sense of self and self-esteem that they reply heavily on external validation and approval. They will go out of their way for posting a picture that will bring them to centre stage — even if it means being six feet underground,” said Dr Afridi.
The act can also be a matter of young age and an inaccurate appraisal of the risks involved in a situation. Neuroscience research has shown that the adolescent brain — ages under 24 — seeks both thrill and attention while undercalculating the risks in activities. The frontal lobe, which is responsible for decision making and thinking through consequences, is not fully developed until after the age of 24, explained Dr Afridi.
“While the brain is under construction, the chemicals in the adolescent brain are responsible for much of the risk taking and underestimation of risks,” she said.
Nevertheless, with more cases of death or injury being reported every year due to selfies, some countries are identifying ‘no selfie zones’ across their cities. Mumbai police have identified more than a dozen such zones around India’s largest city after three young girls were swept out into the Arabian Sea while taking selfies in a rocky part of the Bandra area, reported the Post.