PETALING JAYA, March 26 — To die from the act of snapping a picture of oneself is to die a truly 21st century death. Such exits only came into prominence since the globalisation of smart phones and digital cameras.
And as people become more daring in their desire to break new grounds in the course of taking selfies, they increase the risk to their lives.
Recent reports have highlighted that “more people have been killed taking selfies than by shark attacks” last year. At the end of 2015, there were six confirmed shark-related deaths. In those same twelve months, there were at least 10 selfie-linked deaths.
In Malaysia, six deaths due to selfies were recorded since March 2014.
Statistics gathered by economics site Priceonomics revealed that since 2014, 49 people had died as a result of some sort of accident involving a selfie and the average age of the victims was 21. Although the study found women generally take and post more selfies, 75 per cent of the victims were male.
Psychologists say our innate narcissism coupled with access to social networking sites are what drive us to take daring selfies which, at times, could put our lives in jeopardy.
HELP University psychology department head Alex Lui An Lieh, said due to our geographical and time limitations, many prefer to connect with friends and family through social networking sites, where they obtain gratification through the approval of others.
“The number of ‘likes’ on social media is a virtual measurement of acceptance.
“Therefore, the need to capture the ultimate selfie that will not only shock and impress others, but also trigger hundreds of likes and boost their self-worth is ever-present,” he said.
He added that social media allow individuals to put themselves on a virtual pedestal which can be seen by thousands of people from across the globe and eventually create a mini superstar status for them.
“One may think others are interested in everything one does and to maintain this popularity status, one needs to constantly impress one’s followers by showing them more exciting shots of oneself,” he said.
Universiti Putra Malaysia senior developmental psychopathology lecturer Tan Kit Aun concurred, saying social networking sites provide the narcissists in us full control over self-presentation.
“Narcissists engage in self-regulatory strategies to affirm their positive self-views and social media is the ultimate platform,” he said.
While there was still no conclusive study done on selfie addiction, Tan said there were a few pathological similarities to Internet gambling disorders, according to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders.
“Diagnostic features of Internet gambling disorder include preoccupation, environmental distress from school, family, work and friends, deception of Internet time, and using the game to escape or relieve a negative mood.
“We expect these diagnostic features to also hold true for selfie addiction,” he said.
Tan added that the American Psychiatric Association has encouraged research activities to determine whether selfie addiction should be added to the manual as a disorder.
A psychotherapist from counselling centre Mind Faculty, Joyce Goh, said “selfie addiction” may actually be a warning alarm for other sorts of hidden mental illnesses and more often than not, social media addiction is also present.
“This is really worrying as selfie-posting might lead to something bigger, like cyber bullying. Because of their narcissistic traits, selfie-takers usually post everything on social media.
“People then might bully them for the appearance, dress code and location of photo. This could also encourage people to stalk them,” she said.
She said the human brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time due to the psychological concept of selective attention.
“Even when we are supposedly multitasking, what we are really doing is just quickly alternating between one task and another.
“So, when someone is taking selfies in precarious positions, concentrating on trying to get the best shot will make the person less aware of surrounding dangers,” she said.
Psychiatrist Tan Sri Dr M. Mahadevan said while people should be allowed to take pictures of themselves regardless of the reason, there should be limit to posting selfies on the Internet or wanting to impress your friends and followers.
“Engaging in daredevil stunts to capture a selfie is can be dangerous but excessive posting of selfies on the Internet can also give rise to cyber crimes such as blackmails.
“In this digital age, there are many criminally-inclined people who might just take advantage of every situation. It is better to be safe and not take that risk,” he said. -MMO.