Around the world, people have been reported being injured or even killed while trying to take selfies, with incidents involving slipping from great heights, being electrocuted, or falling into water and drowning.
Yet those examples haven’t deterred a significant number of social-media users in B.C. who are continuing to chase after “likes” by doing things that could result in harm or death.
B.C. Hydro released a report today (July 30) that’s entitled “Living on the edge: British Columbians taking more outdoor risks for social media glory”.
The report revealed that over the past five years, there has been a 200 percent increase in trespassing incidents at B.C. Hydro dams, reservoirs, and recreation sites, including climbing transmission towers and swimming in restricted areas at dams.
In addition, B.C. Hydro reported seeing an increase in people interfering with electrical infrastructure, including towers and substations. In one example during the 2018 ice storm, an individual took a selfie close to a downed transformer and high voltage line, which could have resulted in severe injury or death.
These incidents increase during the summer months, which is when three-quarters of them have occurred.
Based on a survey, the report found that one potential driving factors is social media users seeking to make posts about their experiences.
The study found that 50 percent of British Columbians have witnessed someone engaged in dangerous behavior while taking a photo, selfie, or video.
Only 15 percent admitted to doing these things themselves but the report points out that posts on social media indicate that this issue is much more common.
Younger individuals and men, twice more likely than women, were the biggest risk takers, and some have even endangered others. Over 20 percent of those 18 to 34 years old took risks for social media posts.
Some of the riskiest activities in attempts to take a selfie include standing at the edge of a cliff (16 percent), disobeying safety signs or trespassing (12 percent), and being at a dangerous height (nine percent).
Other risky behavior includes being in a park or recreation area after hours (25 percent), getting too close to a wild animal (17 percent), cliff diving (15 percent), hiking in a restricted area (13 percent), and swimming out of bounds or in a restricted area (12 percent).
In one example in 2020, an individual was observed swimming on the downstream side of the Vancouver Island’s Comox Lake Dam in proximity to the spillway gates. At the time of the incident, both spillway gates had been open and water passing through them could have pulled the swimmer underwater.
In the Kootenays, whitewater kayakers have plunged over the natural falls located downstream from Aberfeldie and Elko Dams. At least once every year, local search and rescue crews receive calls about someone injured from going over the falls. In 2020, one woman sustained a significant lower back injury doing so.
An estimated 80,000 adults in B.C. (about two percent of the population) have injured themselves while trying to take a photo or video, including cuts, sprains, falls, broken bones, and near drownings.
Among its public-safety recommendations, B.C. Hydro is asking all British Columbians to avoid generating facilities including dams, powerhouses, power lines and all electrical equipment; remain out of fenced, gated, and restricted areas; never touch or climb transmission towers; avoid waterway edges, where footing may be slippery or banks might be unstable; and don’t hike or head out on the water alone or without letting others know your plan.