Selfies and the Darwin Award
By Bill Hoagland
A few weeks ago, a tourist in Yellowstone Park got too close to a buffalo and ended up getting gored and then tossed by the buffalo more than 10 feet in the air. She is lucky she wasn’t killed. The complete details of this incident have not been released yet, but my guess is that she was taking a selfie with the buffalo when this happened. A friend and I were talking about this incident later and we contemplated that if she had been killed, she might have been a candidate for the “Darwin Award” because visitors to Yellowstone have been warned for years about getting too close to the buffalo and other critters.
More about the Darwin Award in a minute but first, let’s discuss the overwhelming number of injuries and deaths that occur as a result of someone taking a “selfie”.
Once I started researching selfies that result in injuries and death, I was shocked by the magnitude of times that this has occurred. An inordinate number of these incidents involve trains, guns, wild animals, scenic overlooks and rivers in flood stage. For example, in October 2011, three teenage girls near Salt Lake City were taking a selfie of themselves on a railroad track as a train was approaching. The girls were laughing and exclaiming on their cell phone how “awesome” it was to have a train approaching. They miscalculated the speed of the train and all three were hit and killed by the train. In August 2016, a Pakistani girl was taking a selfie of herself and a flooding river when she inadvertently slipped and fell into the current. Both her mother and her father jumped into the river to save her and all three drowned, leaving as the sole survivor of this family a six year old boy who was still on the shore. And in May 2021, in Central Java, we had a boat full of tourists (actually 20 of them) who all got on one side of a small boat to take a “group selfie”, and the boat capsized, drowning nine of the occupants. Folks, the list is endless.
And then we have the Darwin Awards, given each year to those persons who manage to kill themselves while doing something really, really stupid. These awards take the selfie disasters to an even higher level. And yes, the Darwin Awards, named for Charles Darwin, involve some dark humor, but with so many stupid things going on these days, maybe publicizing these events will bring someone to their senses. The Darwin Awards are given to those humans who are so idiotic–because they did something really stupid and dangerous– that they would contaminate the human gene pool if they were allowed to procreate. The Darwin Awards involve some pretty gruesome situations, so let’s just look at one example and call it a day: three men who are drinking together and becoming intoxicated, decide to take turns jumping on a Cambodian land mine to see if they can ignite it. In one sense, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams because all three were killed in the explosion; in another sense, the Darwin Award folks would view it as a success because these three idiots can never contaminate the human gene pool again. (As I say, we are dealing with some really dark humor here.)
But let’s get back to selfies and Yellowstone Park. If you are going to Yellowstone this summer and you think it would be “awesome” to take a selfie with a buffalo, moose, elk or grizzly, you too may wind up being nominated for the Darwin Award. And trust me, that is not an award you would want mentioned in your obituary.
■ Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.