Daring Stunts for Social Media Clout Turn Deadly Across India

NEW DELHI — In a startling trend sweeping India, individuals are engaging in extreme and perilous acts, often involving life-threatening stunts, all in their quest for viral fame on social media. These reckless endeavors, driven by the desire for likes and shares, recently included a woman dangling precarously from a skyscraper and a man darting in front of a moving bus.

In a recent incident that sparked widespread alarm, 23-year-old Minakshi Salunkhe was filmed swinging from a high-rise building in Maharashtra while being held only by the hand of her friend, 27-year-old Mihir Gandhi. The duo from Pune was promptly arrested, and police are currently searching for another accomplice involved in filming the stunt. They face charges under IPC 336, a law addressing acts that endanger human life or personal safety of others, which could lead to six months in prison and a fine.

Similarly in Hyderabad, a male social media enthusiast’s attempt to garner attention took a dangerous turn when he threw himself in front of an oncoming bus. The man narrowly escaped death by lying flat on the road, allowing the bus to pass over him without causing injury. The stunt, captured on video, spurred police investigations after claims surfaced online suggesting the clip was staged.

The pursuit of virality has had deadly consequences for some. A 23-year-old man in Telangana lost his life while attempting to recreate a hanging scene from a movie. In another tragic event, a woman in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, died when she lost control of her car while filming a video, plummeting 300 feet. Earlier in the month, two students filming on railway tracks in Nashik, Maharashtra, were tragically struck by an oncoming train.

These incidents have ignited a debate about the influence of social media on public safety and individual behavior. Dr. Anjali Chhabria, a Mumbai-based psychologist, suggests that “the dopamine rush linked with ‘likes’ and online approval can push individuals to extreme, often irrational, behaviors. It’s crucial to educate the youth about the dire consequences these actions can have.”

Legal analysts argue that current penalties for such reckless behaviors are insufficient to deter potential offenders. “There needs to be a stronger legal framework and stricter enforcement to prevent such dangerous stunts,” states Rakesh Kumar, a senior advocate specializing in criminal law.

Authorities are also calling for social media platforms to play a more active role in curbing content that promotes hazardous acts. Proposals include more rigorous content monitoring and rapid takedown of videos that breach safety guidelines.

As India grapples with these troubling incidents, there is a growing consensus on the need for comprehensive strategies that encompass legal, educational, and technological responses to stem the tide of dangerous behaviors fueled by the quest for social media fame. The ongoing challenge will be balancing the promotion of creativity and freedom of expression online with the imperative of safeguarding public safety.