He was 13. He was in school. All he wanted was possibly to hit a hundred likes with his ‘daring’ selfie. Instead, he ended up dead. 13-year-old Ketan Poddar of Bilaspur lost his life in November 2014, in an attempt to pose on top of a goods train to click a selfie and accidentally touched an overhead live wire. His is not a stray case. In January 2015, a 16-year-old in Mumbai sustained 90% burns while taking a selfie and attempting some daredevilry at a railway yard.
Sounds unbelievable? Take this. It has now come to light that in May 2014, the Cessna air crash in Colarado with pilot Amritpal Singh and his passenger could have been due to their cellphone selfies taken seconds before the fatal air-crash.
What's behind the Selfie addiction?
Psychiatrist Dr Kunal Kala of premium rehab centre Mind Plus Retreat says that attention-seeking needs and peer influence among youth are the main reasons causing social networking addiction and selfie-addiction as a by-product. “We are certainly taking the selfie-trend too far. There is a strong emotional need especially among the youth to be dramatic, to be different from others and hence the limits keep getting pushed. Activity on social media is at its zenith. Putting up selfies on Facebook and other social networking sites allows people to enjoy instant love. As they start comparing comments and likes on their pictures, the need to be unique and to be the most talked about increases.” Needless to say, it is not just plain dangerous but also fatal as we can see from recent cases. “Even if not fatal, the youth get so preoccupied with these things that they get distracted from life goals,” he adds.
Body image issues
Ketan’s is not an isolated case. Not just across the world but also in India, there is an alarming increase in the number of deaths due to wrongly attempted selfies. And, hold your breath, it’s just not that. Intense selfie addiction is leading to complexes about body image. Last year, 19-year-old Danny Bowman’s mother realised in time that her son was so obsessed with selfies that he kept taking around 200 pictures of himself every day and even tried to kill himself by overdosing because he couldn’t take the perfect shot and felt he didn’t have the ‘perfect’ look. He was taken for psychiatric help.
Lack of family communication
Family communication is decreasing in the age of social media and that can be singled out as the most important reason leading to such behaviour where one seeks instant gratification on a public forum. Dr Kala says, “It's important for parents to have good communication with children on a regular basis. That keeps them grounded and they are less influenced by their peer group. Also, when such news comes it's better to discuss it neutrally rather than lecture them. It's better to ask their view about that situation rather than impose your views.”
Emotional adjustment issues
The notional happiness that one gets with favourable comments and likes is leading to emotional adjustment issues. Dr Kala adds, “Various levels of selfie addiction are a part of emotional adjustment problems and self-esteem issues among young people. When they face academic problems and failures, for instance, then such an addiction gives them a temporary happy feeling which gets further reinforced by praise and attention from friends.”
Narcissism, addiction, mental illness – could a simple camera lead to this? Alphonse Giroux must have never thought of it when he developed the first camera for commercial use.