India and the ‘Killfie’

Google ‘selfies and India.’ Within hours after landing in India for the first time, I soon detected a pattern emerging - and I did just that. One of the first things you are likely to notice here is a shocking amount you see taken just about everywhere, and almost exclusively by men. At rates that would make your average ‘tween seem pedantic and introverted by comparison, on this flight I witnessed no less than 50 happening on board before we took off. When we landed, many men held up the entire disembarkation for minutes at a time taking photos of themselves, and without a single protest from the passengers (excluding my eye rolls and audible exasperation).

It might not be surprising, then, that India is the world’s leader in death-by-selfie. ‘Killfies’, as they have been called, aren’t exclusive to India, of course, but more than half of all of these deaths have occurred here.  As an Indian friend of mine quipped when asked, “First we had to deal with polio, now we have to deal with this.” The phenomenon is so prevalent that certain areas of Mumbai have been declared ‘no-selfie zones’, and there is even an app that warns users if they are near popular spots that are rated dangerous for selfies by other users. 

In another selfie-related incident that captured worldwide attention last year, a group of bystanders in Rajasthan took selfie photos and video in front of three men who lay dying on a road after a car accident. No one bothered to call paramedics or assist the victims, who were covered in blood and writhing in pain. 

Some notable headlines since 2017: 

* A 28-year-old man sneaked into a wildlife colony to take selfies with an elephant, and was subsequently trampled to death. 

* A man and an 11-year-old boy were electrocuted while taking selfies on top of a train. 

* Three men were crushed to death by a speeding train as they were taking selfies on the tracks in the Indian state of Karnataka. 

* Two teenagers drowned in the Tapi river after losing their balance while taking selfies and falling into the water. 

It’s been reported that given India’s strict class hierarchy, sharing selfies on social media correlates to a boost of confidence, and a way for people to promote and express themselves.

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