Selfies are one of those trends that people love to hate. Who would want to just take pictures of themselves? Don’t people just get bored with just looking at pictures of people taking pictures of themselves? Thanks for the concern, Dad. The answer is a solid no. These days, selfies have become an art form all their own. If someone gets a picture of themselves looking fab in front of something cool, that’s internet gold.
But this is precisely what makes selfies so dangerous. In 2018, a study from the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care found that 259 people had died from taking selfies. People fall off things, drown, and sometimes even get electrocuted while standing on top of trains (seriously). So the most dangerous selfies ever taken are ones the world (thankfully) doesn’t see.
But there are a few daredevils who took dangerous photos to stick on social media and lived to tell the tale. Call them insane or call them artists—these are pictures people may never see again in any other format. Selfies have officially passed from fad to normal photography technique. With that in mind, here are some of the most dangerous social media photos ever taken.
Selfie from the Blue Lagoon
According to her Instagram feed, Marina Zheleznova seized upon a Russian trend in summer 2019 and took her wedding pics near a beautiful lake in Siberia. She’s a normal lady in love who wants to take a beautiful picture by a beautiful natural landmark. What’s the harm?
According to the Star Tribune, that lake is not what it seems. It doesn’t get that gorgeous shade of blue from its naturally clean water or a tropical climate. It’s caused by the dumping of toxic chemicals and has been declared dangerous by the Siberian government. Touching the water can cause chemical burns or rashes. Not that the Siberian Generating Company said anything about it immediately—they were claiming it was totally fine not long before Zheleznova took this picture. CNN reported that they finally spoke out about the lake’s toxicity in June 2019, officially advising visitors not to touch the water and especially not to swim in it. The water’s full of heavy metals and calcium salts. The company didn’t even call it a lake. It’s "the ash dump."
Has this stopped people from swimming, canoeing, or taking selfies there? Of course not. It’s hard to resist taking pictures for Instagram at a spot nicknamed the "Siberian Maldives." Will the world soon be seeing three-eyed fish on Instagram?
A dangerous volcano selfie, for those who like it fiery
This selfie’s one that people can definitely appreciate, because it comes from an actual pro photographer. National Geographic explorer George Kourounis took it to the next level in 2014 with his real-deal volcano selfie on Twitter. Al-Masdar News reported that Kourounis took the picture right over the Ambrym volcano in the Republic of Vanuatu, though on social media he referred to it as the Marum volcano. Kourounis perched above a lake of lava that (thankfully) was in no danger of erupting. Going by his tweeting timeline, he was 1,200 feet inside the crater at the time of the selfie.
He had described the volcano as a "window into Hell" in an earlier tweet, but apparently he wasn’t freaked out enough to not snap a pic. His silver suit protected him from the volcano’s heat, but he had to halt before his camera melted. Not before he took a second volcano selfie—this one wearing a horse’s head mask. But his suit lasted the whole journey into the fiery earth—only to be destroyed by a bout of acid rain later on the island.
Just in case you were worried: Kourounis didn’t sustain any injuries after the selfie. He was fine and went on to host a TV show about chasing storms, because safety appears to be just an afterthought to this guy.
The selfie that revealed a near miss
Want to be terrified the next time you attend a baseball game? Sports reporter Kelly Nash narrowly avoided being struck with a baseball at Fenway Park, and posted the proof on Instagram. She took this selfie, according to Bleacher Report, when she was reporting at the Red Sox’s home in Boston. It wasn’t even for her work—she’s a Massachusetts native and wanted to take a snapshot for her family.
None of the balls from the team’s batting practice had come her way yet, even though her producer had issued a few warnings during her reporting segment. So she thought turning away for a quick picture above the famous "Green Monster" wall was perfectly safe. And, technically, she was right.
The best part: Nash had had no idea of the danger she was in when she took the selfie. She only learned what had happened when she was reviewing her photos. Upon seeing the picture, she posted it with the caption "Most dangerous selfie ever. That happened." Nash also admitted to finding a ball that was the most likely the one that almost hit her and keeping it. She also credits having a copy of the movie Angels in the Outfield for the life-saving good luck. Maybe Christopher Lloyd really is looking out for all of us.
Looking down on the world
Travel entrepreneur Lee Thompson made his Christ the Redeemer selfie an event. He detailed the process on his website, describing it as the first "selfie with Jesus" that he just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take. Is there some pope selfie jealousy hidden in there?
Thompson thought he might have a chance to take the selfie when the 98-foot statue was being repaired after a lightning strike in January 2014. There would be builders with ladders, maybe there was a chance they’d let him in? When he was down in Rio De Janeiro in June of that year, he requested permission from the Brazilian tourist board to take the photo. According to his website, Thompson was already in Rio to document preparations that were taking place for the World Cup. This was just a bonus adventure.
For those wanting the nitty-gritty details, Thompson climbed up 12 flights of rickety stairs to get all the way to the window out by the statue’s crown. In his words, the stairs seemed to grow narrower the higher he went. And yes, he was practically shaking with fright the whole time. Still, great shot.
Being in mortal danger is a great time for a selfie
There are dangerous selfies that are cool and that earn you fame and internet prestige. Then there are dangerous selfies that cause an entire country call you an idiot. This guy’s selfie during Spain’s Pamplona festival, famous for the "running of the bulls" event, must have been cool. He has a bright sweater on, he’s presumably among pals… and he’s running for his life from monsters with horns. A second picture from the day shows him pinned from above by one of the bulls. Smart guy.
As Slate puts it, this one goes beyond a regular dangerous selfie. It’s 100 percent illegal. The cops in Spain have been trying to discourage people from slowing down to use any kind of recording device during the running of the bulls, for perfectly understandable reasons. The guy would have to pay a fine of up to €3,000 if the police caught him.
The key word here is "if." El Tontol Móvil (idiot with a mobile phone) has not been caught as of October 2019, five years after he took the selfie. Maybe the Twitter jokes about #eltontolmóvil will help find this dastardly villain someday. Until then, enjoy the roast tweets from Spain.
Pointing at trains was a dangerous selfie fad
Hey, remember planking? Remember how dangerous everyone thought it was? India’s selfie takers laugh at our childish fads. Taking part in a social media craze in 2018, a Hyderabad man named Shiva landed in the hospital when a train he pointed at was going way faster than he expected. So many questions, namely: why? Maybe it was a "check out this train" fad?
NDTV reported that the guy was pointing for a good chunk of time while the train was coming towards him. He ignored a warning from someone else and even the train’s engineer blowing the horn. The video of him doing all this was made public—and was mocked to death, of course. Shiva sustained hand and head injuries for the ‘gram, but he was lucky to be alive after this accident. People have already died or lost limbs in India trying to get selfies on or around trains. Shiva’s selfie is just the most dangerous one that the public’s managed to see.
A survey from the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care puts India solidly at #1 for the country with the most selfie deaths. The BBC reported in 2016 that the city of Mumbai was declaring 15 popular attractions within the city as no-selfie zones. This was after a young woman drowned after trying to take a selfie with her friends on a popular pier.
A hyena biting your face off would be a great selfie
Explorer Kim Wolhunter snapped a picture with a wild hyena, avoiding any chomps or giggles along the way. But it’s cool. He’s friends with this hyena. The picture was posted on Wolhunter’s Facebook page, where he catalogs his and his family’s interactions with wild animals. Apparently, hyenas can be very sweet. The hyena in this picture is named Tumelo, who apparently loved scritches and was very trusting of the humans lurking around her home taking pictures.
Wolhunter spends around eighteen months hanging out with the animals he documents so they trust him enough not to attack. He really believes in getting up close and personal with the animals, all the better to portray them as they really are. He has another famous picture under his belt of a cheetah casually nibbling on his toes.
Wolhunter advocates for a better public image for hyenas, calling out The Lion King in Africa Geographic for giving the animals a bad rap. He documents lots of different wild animals, but usually has a don’t-get-too-close rule. This cute picture was one of the exceptions because Tumelo had a special bond with him. And, well, it’s adorable.
Is this the most dangerous photo ever put on social media?
A Norwegian Armed Forces pilot snapped this incredible picture during a fake dogfight exercise. It went up on the Armed Forces’ Facebook page and immediately inspired people all over the world to play the Top Gun theme. This selfie was taken during a military training exercise called Cold Response, designed to help soldiers become accustomed to extreme weather conditions. Over 16 countries sent soldier to participate in the exercise.
We might see a lot more of these plane selfies in future—plane enthusiasts like the writers at The Aviationist commented that this pilot’s plane is considered one of the best for taking selfies. The Lockheed Martin F-16 was designed for complete 360 degree visibility, with the seat cocked in a way that the pilot has improved visibility and improved tolerance to g-force. It’s perfect for nailing your angles, in other words.
Mashable reported that the Norwegian Armed Forces not only supported soldiers taking selfies, it was their idea. The aim was to show the soldiers in a more human light, not just in combat scenarios. The pilot one stood out partly because the pilot took it with a standard camera that was already used in patrols. This soldier is just that casually cool.
No special effects, all danger
If you have a fear of heights, sorry. Model Viki Odintcova caused an uproar in 2017 when she took a picture of herself dangling over the ledge of Dubai’s Cayan Tower. According to the New Zealand Herald, the building is 307 meters tall (about 1,007.22 feet). Homegirl had no safety net and nothing attaching her to the building but her burly assistant’s hand. That’s also true for the photo of her faking a fall off the building. Not even kidding.
Of course, her fans immediately cried WTF. They asked how on earth she thought it was a good idea to risk her life for a such a hair-raising image. But in her defense, she issued a "don’t try this at home" warning and published a behind-the-scenes video of how she did the stunt. She actually spoke out about how easy it was to do—and that, in fact, the building officials should thank her for exposing that major flaw.
USA Today reported that the Dubai police demanded that Odintcova sign papers saying she would never perform another stunt that could endanger her life in Dubai. No word on if her mom had a heart attack upon seeing the photos.
Danger is so romantic
Camille and Jean of the Backpack Diariez account on Instagram made waves when they took a sexy kiss photo while leaning off the edge of a train in Sri Lanka. Some people cried foul, declaring in the comments that the photo must have been faked. Others just called them crazy and irresponsible. But the couple came out and defended the photo. The New York Post reported their comments about how the ravine the track lay next to wasn’t very deep and the train was moving at a "walking speed." They wanted to take pictures on they train because they saw the experience as a big part of their time in Sri Lanka, something they couldn’t not share with fans.
The photos also weren’t fake—some commenters pointed out the arm supporting Camille, which may have belonged to Jean’s brother, who was travelling with them. He took 500 photos of Camille and Jean before they decided to put this one on Instagram.
Here’s a fact that’s more convincing: They weren’t the first influencers to (safely) take advantage of this train’s Instagram appeal, and they’re definitely no strangers to including ledges in their Instagram feed. At least they have practice being risky in their pictures?
The most dangerous model on social media
Self-described "extreme model" Angela Nikolau’s Instagram feed is full of graceful poses at extreme heights. But this model pose on top of a building at Shanghai Disneyland Park may just take the cake. It involves a selfie stick, of course. At least one on this list needed one.
But Nikolau knows what she’s doing. According to the BBC, she’s the daughter of a Moscow trapeze artist and considers the photographs she creates on her climbs to be art. Russia is full of extreme selfie takers, but she definitely comes across as the most methodical. Sometimes she’ll use selfie sticks, sometimes not. She told the New York Post that she’ll climb to the top of a building if she feels confident in her own abilities. Not all her Instagram photos are death-defying stunts, though they’re definitely the ones that have made her famous.
And what about the building’s security? Well, she’s snuck past guards before. Nikolau and her boyfriend climbed the world’s tallest construction site in 2016 with no problems. She’s even taken pictures from the Eiffel Tower. Before you ask: Yes, she’s a fan of hanging-off-the-ledge pictures. Sometimes she doesn’t even need a ledge—just a flat section of a crane will do. She’s even done yoga on high ledges, just in case you wanted extra heart attack fuel today.
Elk add a dangerous frisson to your social media photos
Anyone from the Pacific Northwest (or Canada) knows that you don’t mess with elk. Imagine if Bambi’s dad was twice as muscular, twice as hairy, still had scary big antlers, and wasn’t at all frightened of humans. There’s a reason a moose is way more likely to be your school mascot.
In 2017, a St. Louis woman found herself the subject of a elk attack during her attempt to take a selfie with a herd of 17 of the beasts during their mating season. She escaped with just (!!) a gore to the arm after her group of friends approached the dominant male for a picture—unlike the woman who was gored in the back while trying to take a selfie less than two weeks before the attack. The elk are especially dangerous during their randy time, which lasts from the middle of August until September.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is too nice to call these people morons. But the rangers they talked to reported that usually one person a year is attacked by the elk during mating season. There are also a bunch of signs telling people not to approach them during that time of year. But people just insist on taking pictures with the wild elk dudes who are trying to hit on the elk ladies. And they wonder why the animals are mad about it.