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Is It OK to Laugh at Someone Dying if There Was a Selfie Stick Involved?

A very modern conundrum.

by Joel Golby
08 July 2015, 1:45pm

(Photo via North Charleston)

The general consensus is: death is bad. That's one of the main rules, of life. That the end of it is bad. The spark that runs through your body runs cold. The blood pumping through your veins slows to a halt. You cease to be flesh and instantly become meat. And that is you: gone, to the wind, buried in the ground or burned down to dust, and all that is left is memories and a familial squabble over all your stuff. Your soul is slowly zorbing into the ether, and everyone's mad at one of your cousins for breaking a porcelain niknak that some gum-chewing appraiser thought might be worth something at auction. You are dead and the tears have dried up and all that's left is to allot the pounds of flesh.

Anyway, you're fine, you won't die for ages. You're fine. You're bulletproof. You're fine. Death will skip its black and awful eyes over you. You will never die. But other people, they die all the time. Like that bloke in the Brecon Beacons who died after getting hit by a bolt of lightning through his selfie stick on Sunday.

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As the Telegraph reports, sources close to the rescue told the paper that a metal selfie stick was possibly acting as a lightning rod that pulled powerful energy out of the sky and directly into the heart and blood of one of the two men, killing him instantly. But then again a further WalesOnline investigation said no selfie stick was involved, so it's hard to really know what happened, isn't it? Like: did a man die of an under-researched SEO-friendly selfie stick death, or did he just die, tragically and alone, doing what he loved, wearing a smouldering North Face jacket, his last meal a square of Kendal Mint Cake? Hard to truly know.

Anyway, top line: a man was maybe killed with electricity from the gods for having the temerity to take a photo of himself enjoying a mountain.

Tricky, isn't it, because that's quite funny as a concept. The reality is absolutely not funny for his family and friends: they are in bits. Remember the guy who invented the Segway, who died after driving a Segway off a cliff? Strictly, that is not funny. But also it is. Speaking of cliffs: remember that couple who fell to their death off one because they were taking a selfie and forgot temporarily how to not die by falling off a cliff? Again, tragic. So tragic. Two boys in the Ural mountains died in January because they posed for a selfie while holding a live grenade with the pin out, and the authorities only know this because the phone survived the explosion that they perished in. Again: absolutely not funny, two young lives – all those hopes, all those dreams, all that nervous energy just bustling to turn into realised potential – extinguished in a flash.

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But there's definitely a moral conundrum in all of these cases, because there's something about the human condition that wants to laugh at death – to stare it in the face and say, "Ha, dickhead, I am unafraid of you! Or at least I try not to think about you too much when I'm hungover!" Is the urge to laugh at tragedy getting more common because, with our camera phones and our selfie sticks and our social media phenomena, we have invented such wild new ways to kill ourselves?

Like: we cannot survive the tools we have built ourselves! We have built a world so advanced we cannot survive it! Our collective narcissism is killing us! Segways and selfie sticks are actually very dangerous! But also death is bad imo!

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Human beings are only going to keep dying while taking selfies and it's only going to become harder to figure out what we should feel when they do. Instant, hair-trigger amusement at the concept of death via selfie? Or empathy at the reality that somewhere, remnant humans are really and truly hurting because of death via selfie? It's a difficult and blurry calculation; dying while taking a selfie is an extremely modern way of tipping into the abyss, and we probably need to invent a modern twist on grief to deal with it. A sort of lesser, guilt-free grief. Grief with honking laughter. Grief that accommodates the absurdity of dying because lightning rendered your body useless through the selfie stick conduit in your hand.

Anyway, next time you take a selfie, just be aware that you might die at any second. That selfies are a danger, and need to be outlawed. That selfies will be the death of us all, one way or another. That this generation is destined to have some really good – or some really real – photos of themselves printed large and displayed at our funerals. You will die one day, selfie takers – you will all die – and if you die doing a selfie I will laugh at you. I will laugh at you and I will try to feel nothing.

@joelgolby

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