We've likely all done it: snapped a quick selfie with a beloved family member for posterity, taken a shot goofing around with a friend to post on social media, or painstakingly lined up the ultimate holiday pic in the hopes it will be the envy of all.

We've probably also been amused and/or annoyed by the antics of others doing exactly the same. How many times have we muttered as a selfie-taker has stopped directly in front of us in the street, tripping us up? How often have we been frustrated as they have obscured a desirable view of a tourist highlight overseas - or spoiled our enjoyment of a scenic spot in our own backyard?

The humble "selfie" - the Oxford Dictionaries "Word of the Year" for 2013 - has rapidly gone from quirky to commonplace. Now, it has also become downright dangerous.


Whether through narcissism, naivety, or nonsensical behaviour, people are dying in their hundreds worldwide in their quest to get the perfect selfie.

Some are certainly daredevils, actively chasing an adrenaline buzz and the accompanying social media stardom as they scale iconic buildings and monuments, take on powerful waterways, or take to the air, road or rails in the pursuit of an epic and inventive shot.

Others are unwittingly putting themselves in danger, accidentally slipping when leaning off a tall building or over a clifftop barrier, for example.

New Zealand has sadly had its fair share of the fatalities. Selfies have appeared to play some part in the deaths in the past few years of New Zealand women Rachael De Jong, Toni Kelly and Carmen Greenway.

It seems falls and drownings are the biggest killers.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Jonty Mills says people are putting themselves and rescuers here at risk, and some of the antics posted on social media are creating the perception activities are less dangerous than they actually are. Worrying, too, is the distraction of social media for parents who should be supervising their children in the water.

There is no doubt digital cameras, video recorders, cellphones and social media have transformed the way we make, take and share photographic memories. We are rich in this way when compared with our forebears. There is immense fun to be had recording and editing our daily activities, our passions, our relationships, our stunning environment. The records we have for ourselves and future generations are precious.

But perhaps it is time to pan back a little and put things in perspective. Is it really worth playing Russian roulette to get that perfect snap, some extra likes, some more followers? We shouldn't let all common sense go out the window.


Let's spare a thought for others, too - particularly those who might have to risk their own lives to embark on a dangerous rescue.

And maybe a little bit of "selfie etiquette" wouldn't go astray either in the interests of keeping everyone snap happy: respect the places where cameras aren't welcome, don't hog that special view, and be careful when you wave that whopping big selfie stick around.