Although humans have a 1 in 4.3 million chance of being killed in a shark attack, it remains a widespread fear. A video explaining what to do — and what not to do — when encountering a shark has gone viral, garnering nearly 58,000 upvotes on Reddit alone.

In a post shared on Reddit’s r/interestingasf*** forum on Aug. 20, user u/SamMee514 reposted a video from TikTok user @mermaid.kayleigh.

In the clip, Kayleigh’s friend and fellow scuba diver Andy shares what not to do if you come into contact with a shark, as well as a quick tip that could save your life.

The “Jaws Effect”

A 2015 Ipsos poll found that over 51 percent of Americans are afraid of sharks. Galeophobia, an unusually strong and persistent fear of sharks, causes great distress and fear in those affected, even when they are safe. For example, a galeophobe may skip trips to the aquarium or panic on a boat or on the beach even when there’s no chance of a shark showing up.

In 2014, Christopher Neff – Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Sydney, Australia – examined the success of the 1975 blockbuster Jaw influenced people’s fear of sharks. Synchronizing the action of the film the “Jaw effect,” Neff suggested that the film’s plot created three myths surrounding shark attacks.

According to the Steven Spielberg-directed classic, sharks intentionally bite humans, encounters with sharks are always fatal, and sharks must be killed to protect humans. Since the film’s release almost 50 years ago, the shark population has declined drastically, with over 100 million sharks killed each year.

Diver reveals how to stop a shark attack
A stock photo of a tiger shark swimming towards the camera. Reddit users suggested that a shark appearing in a viral video just wanted to “boo” its nose instead of eating a diver for lunch.
HakBak1979/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Peter Benchley, author of the novel that inspired the film, regretted that his writing had demonized the great white shark. He told that Daily express: “I could never write this book today. Sharks don’t target humans and they certainly don’t hold grudges.”

He was an environmentalist and shark conservation advocate until his death in 2006.

In a more recent study from 2021, Professor Brianna Le Busque of the University of South Australia thought outside the box Jaw to see how the entertainment industry as a whole has shaped our perception of sharks.

In reviewing 109 “Shark Attack” films, she found that 96 percent showed sharks in a menacing light, with only one film not portraying the animals that way. She compared the results to how the news media portrays sharks, which she calls “exaggerated.”

“Act Like a Predator”

In the video Kayleigh narrates, Andy can be seen swimming as a tiger shark approaches from behind.

“Andy demonstrates why we don’t want to splash and swim away from sharks,” says Kayleigh.

“The splashing and swimming away mimics what prey does. When dealing with top predators like sharks, we want to act like a predator too.”

Andy then turns to face the shark as it comes within range.

“What you actually want to do is not inject, turn around, face the animal, and make eye contact,” Kayleigh continues.

“With tiger sharks, you can place your hand on their head, gently press down and that will draw them away from you.”

The diver then presses on the shark’s nose and guides it in a different direction.

Although Redditors were impressed with the footage, many users also saw the funny side of a shark being gently steered by its nose.

Imagining a conversation between Andy and the shark, Thealexstorm wrote: “Hey mate why don’t you just go over this path instead?”

Are1245 had a different take on the scene: “‘Are you food?’ ‘No’ (gently pushes the shark away) ‘Understandable, have a nice day.’”

A_crusty_old_man suggested, “Sharky just wanted his muzzle booed.”

ChimpyChompies commented, “TIL, sharks have a button on their head that prevents them from eating you. Nice.”

news week reached out to @mermaid.kayleigh and u/SamMee514 for comment. We could not verify the details of the story.

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