Social media “rooftoppers” dropping like flies, and no one’s really surprised

Social media “rooftoppers” dropping like flies, and no one’s really surprised

CultureJanuary 08, 2019 By Will Brendza

“The edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others — the living — are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later.”

-  Hunter S. Thompson

 

There are people making a living on social media toeing that line between “Now and Later.” They quite literally live on The Edge, posting “extreme selfies” hanging off of buildings, doing handstands on the edges of 60 story ledges, holding their friends and lovers over the gaping maw of death itself, seemingly challenging the universe to test their balance, or their strength or even just their luck.

These people are high stakes gamblers, willing to put their lives on the line for a few thousand likes, views and shares. Willing to stake everything on a video or picture that might go viral for a few days. But sometimes, when you bet against the universe like that, the cards don’t fall in your favor — and you fall to your death.

Which was exactly what happened to 26-year-old Wu Yongning, an internet-famous “rooftopper” from China. Hanging from the top of a 62-story skyscraper in Changsha, the adrenaline junkie got his last and greatest kick, when his grip slipped and he plummeted into the forevermore.

And yes, there is a video of the horrifying accident. Just beware: it's not fun to watch.

 

Tragically, the goal of that stunt was to pay for Yongning’s wedding (he was proposing the next day) and to provide medical help for his sick mother. His intentions were good, noble even — his methods, however, were a little risky.

Yongning was not the first (nor will he be the last) of these rooftoppers to die trying to capture a sick video. In fact, his name now hangs from the top of a growing list of social media thrill-seekers who have been lost over The Edge forever.

Names like Jackson Coe, whose body was found in the backyard of a six-story New York building, months after his own mother scolded him for rooftopping. Or like Andrea Barone, a 15-year-old who climbed to the top of a shopping mall in Italy to take an “extreme selfie” and then fell 131 feet into a ventilation duct.

In 2015, 17-year-old Andrey Retrovsky also met a similar fate. The Russian teen was hanging off the edge of a nine-story building, suspended by a rope to make it look like he was falling, when the rope snapped.

Andrey fell to his death.

 

These daredevil deaths have done little to stem the trend, though. Rooftopping is still alive and well, and it’s even making people rich and famous — as demonstrated by Instagrammers like @roof_topper, @angela_nikolau and @thejameskingston. All of whom are still bravely soldiering on, carrying that insane rooftopping torch onwards and upwards.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Back in Dubai shooting a bunch of new videos. Feels good to be creating again! Check out my latest video in my bio ❤

A post shared by James Kingston (@thejameskingston) on

 

Undeniably, there is an artistic element to these pictures. Particularly when rooftoppers like Angela Nikolau elevate their rooftopping exploits to model-quality photoshoots. But at a certain point, the danger becomes more important than the aesthetics, the gut wrenching vertigo becomes more powerful than the clarity or artistic merits of the picture.

Which is fine. Good art makes you feel, even if it’s making you feel queasy.

There’s little doubt, though, that as this rooftopping meme continues, more of these exhibitionists are going to find out exactly where The Edge is and how beautiful the view on the other side might be.