You have probably heard that life imitates art. Most notable is Oscar Wilde’s comment that:
“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life“
I mention this because in the play and movie Auntie Mame, Mame’s husband, Beauregard Burnside, dies when they are on the Matterhorn, and he falls to his death trying to take a photograph of Mame on the mountain. That is “death by photography,” and today we have the subset “death by selfie.” This came to mind this week when a woman in India was rescued from a thirty foot deep well in which she had fallen while trying to take a selfie.
Not surprisingly there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to death and injuries by selfie. The most common accidents, like the woman in India, is leaning too far off bridges, buildings, and mountains – like the Matterhorn. Another common theme is being killed by trains while taking a selfie standing on a railroad track. I am suspicious that this is an attempt to have a train in the photo barreling down on one. Hello, people – not so smart! This certainly seems a variant on the Darwin Awards.
It appears unlikely that “death by selfie” has increased the number of “deaths by photography,” except in that there are more people taking photographs with cell phones than in “olden days” with “conventional” cameras. More significant, I suspect, is the danger of abstractedness. While the cell-phone and the taking of selfies increases connectedness with one’s greater community, it certainly abstracts the individual from his/her surroundings. “Death by selfie” is a small problem compared to the greater problem of “death by cell phone.” In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in automobile crashes in the United States, involving a distracted driver. An additional, 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012. There’s the epidemic.
And it also represents a clash between our hunger for technology and our ability to adapt and intercolate this technology into our conscious lives – emphasis on the word conscious. As we rocket towards the singularity, we are the weak link, and what we see is the need to automate cars more and more to compensate for distracted humans.