The dangers of looking for likes: The ridiculous lengths people will go to in search of virality on social media

Despite being bitten by a shark, Instagram influencer says she would take the plunge again, but the world needs to open their eyes and see how dangerous a sport Instagram is

                            The dangers of looking for likes: The ridiculous lengths people will go to in search of virality on social media
(Source:Getty Images)

How strong is your Instagram game and how extreme would you go to take the perfect shot? Instagram horror stories aren't something new and in the latest string of narrow escapes, a 19-year-old student was bitten by a shark while taking a picture for the photo-sharing app.

Katarina Zarutskie, a social media influencer from California was attempting a photo shoot in the Bahamas surrounded by Nurse Sharks. A month back she went on a vacation with her boyfriend and his family, when she chanced upon a spot that would make for an aesthetically pleasing Instagram setting, a serene clear blue marina full of swimming sharks. 

In an interview, Zarutskie recalled that everything was fine when she first entered the water, until she leaned back and held her arms out, to pose for the pictures.

“I leaned back, and then that shark he came and he bit down on my arm and pulled me under,” Zarutskie told Buzzfeed. She smartly escaped since her surfing lessons kicked in and she remained calm and gently lifted her hand from the water so dripping blood wouldn’t lure more sharks into the picture. The boyfriend’s father, who was snapping pictures, captured the moment the shark attacked. 

Zarutskie said she was pulled under the water for full eight seconds. Now the aspiring model boasts over 40,000 followers on Instagram. Though the experience, she says, was a terrifying one, she would definitely take the plunge again and not "rule out" posing, but next time, more cautiously. 

Sounding off our worst fears, last year, the Royal Society for Public Health surveyed that posing for Instagram is one of the most dangerous sports, both mentally and physically. The pictures you see on the app are unlike any other because there is an underlying competition among different profiles. So the idea to do something dangerous peaks among the millennials. 

Just five days ago, a thrill-seeker, who was known to Instagram pictures of him doing backflips on skyscrapers was found dead at the bottom of a building in the West Village in Manhattan, New York. Jackson Coe was 25 years old and is believed to have fallen six floors while attempting a stunt. 

If you are on Instagram, chances are you are aware of the base jumpers aka the "daredevils," who push boundaries to give you a mini heart attack when scrolling through the feed. Gareth Jones, a Cambridge graduate was a popular base jumper on the app performing stunts like speed flying, cliff diving and rock climbing while going around the world.

His second last post on Instagram was of him dangling his legs over a nearly 300-foot drop off North Head Cliff in Manly, Sydney. He garnered over 2K likes and returned to the same spot days later. However on his final attempt, while catching the sunrise, he fell off the very same cliff and fell to his death. His Instagram bio reads;  “Risk- if you have but one opportunity….. make it count.”

Another community that is housed in this particular app is the 'urban explorers' or 'Urbex'  who believe that no landmark, such as buildings or cranes, are off limits. The people belonging to this subculture are driven by curiosity, adrenaline and above all a motive to capture the perfect photo for their Instagram accounts.

"It's sort of a mission, especially putting on a mask and becoming this anonymous human being, who's out to get that shot," one of the urban explorers told ABC. "As soon as you take the shot, you can't wait to get home and edit it and post it, and sort of brag about it." 

In 2015, a Russian teen died after falling nine floors from a rooftop as he tried to take a selfie for his Instagram page. Andrey R, was known to take chilling pictures of him from the rooftop. 

Some of the dangerous spots including waterfalls and cliffs and buildings are also seeing an influx of Instagrammers, who head to these locations to create heart-worthy pictures that make the onlookers question "Whoa! How did you take that?" 

Recently, in May, India witnessed its third animal-related selfie death when a man tried to take a selfie with the bear. Last year, a 21-year-old woman drowned in dam water while she took selfies on a stranded rock in the Waikato River,  New Zealand and two teenage boys fell to their deaths after taking pictures on top of a cliff in the UK.

Ever since the idea of selfies was popularized by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it was reported in 2015 that more people die of selfies than shark attacks. There are many bizarre cases, and even if the selfie isn't exactly synonymous to Instagram, it can be safely assumed that there is an undeniable link. 

The thirst for likes is real. Beautiful faces upload selfies and adventurous souls take the risk of creating something baffling. As one of the urban explorers told ABC that "being in that spot where no-one else really goes and getting those views and that shot that no-one else can remake," is the mindset of Instagrammers. Sometimes it is rewarding financially but it is important to ask yourself if it's really worth it.