Are ‘Selfies’ spoiling the adventure experience?
From Everest to Errigal the most common sight at every mountain summit is hordes of people posing for the standard selfie. Arms outstretched, selfie sticks hoisted and smiles fixed to faces that will be ‘beauty filtered’ for the best effect. A record of the moment captured forever in the hope of likes and approvals on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the WhatsApp Group. For those who don’t expect social media to follow their every move, there is a frustration in waiting for others to finish their uploads on a windy mountain top. All the while ducking and diving in case of unintentionally photo bombing someone’s shot. Selfies are normal behaviour in modern life. They are the go-to action at all events and attractions be they weddings, waterfalls, ice bergs, a cute calf licking a post or a particularly tasty burger. There is absolutely nothing wrong in documenting life and sharing it online, as long as there is a healthy balance between living the moment and recording the moment. The question for us is whether the concentration on achieving that one great image is taking away from the enjoyment of the adventure itself? Are selfies ruining the adventure experience for both the photographer and other trekkers?
Ditch the Selfies and embrace the moment
Psychologists have a term for it. ’Selfitis’. It refers to people who cannot stop taking selfies and posting them for others to see. The American Psychiatric Association claim you are suffering from ‘selfitis’ if you are taking more than three sefies a day. Yes, that’s’ right, more than three selfie uploads constitutes an actual disorder. Clearly, they have never been exposed to teenagers using Snapchat, when three photos a minute would be a fairly conservative estimate of postings. Linking the activity to narcissistic behaviour and a need for approval, there are warnings against overusing the selfie button. This does not recognise that sometimes, the selfie shot it is motivated by a sense of wonder and awe, which may be shared for others to enjoy. Taking selfies and sharing the beauty of your wonderful outdoor adventures has some positives. It increases the appreciation for nature and encourages others to seek the enjoyment and experiences which are clearly so incredible, that they have to broadcast them widely. But, a second screened view is exactly that and there is much you may miss when you narrow your view with the phone screen. It is also good to put the phone down and experience the moment that you are in. Just be there, without looking for the approval of, or the sharing of, that particular point in time, but just savouring it for yourself.
Taking selfies on the trail can be distracting and at times, even dangerous. Accidents while attempting to wow social media have included falling off bikes, plunging down waterfalls, being knocked off your feet by waves and attacked by wild animals. More people die taking selfies than as a result of shark attacks. Earlier this year, the phone case company Case24.com interviewed a large group of self-confessed selfie takers and found that 41% of them had risked safety in pursuit of the ultimate pic. More than 1 in 10 reported sustaining injuries as they struggled for the perfectly posed Instagram shot. Those elusive social media Likes are more important than being safe. Now dubbed as ‘silicide’s’, selfie deaths or fatal accidents that occur while taking that one iconic image are sadly on the increase. In January 2019, a 26 year old Trinity College student, Anand Goel died when he fell from the Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare. He had been observed taking ‘lots of selfies’ before he fell. During the inquest, coroner Isobel O’Dea told the court: “It is quite clear that Mr. Goel was taking selfies in what proved to be a very dangerous place.” Selfie taking can change your perception of the space and landscape around you. Distorting the reality and causing mis-steps that can have tragic consequences. Safety should always be the first consideration before clicking that camera button.
Selfie Tourism. Embracing the Phenomenon
Some tourist destinations have realised that the selfie phenomenon is here to stay. It is part of modern day cultural behaviour. Tourist destinations are recognising this. Palm Beach in Florida have issued selfie maps of the best places to pose in peace. A Selfie Trail for the narcissistic tourist to enjoy in safety and secure in the knowledge that their photos will be great (and the same as every other tourist to the region!). There have been proposals in Ireland for the introduction of ‘selfie seats’ in popular tourist destinations, like the Cliffs of Moher. These seats would be designated safe places to capture the perfect selfie. Other cities issue pamphlets on safe selfie taking. The Russian leaflet advises some essential tips such as, never take a selfie while crossing the road and stay a safe distance from the roof’s edges! So, just as tourist destinations are embracing the selfie phenomenon, all of us who enjoy the outdoor life, must adjust accordingly too. As we enjoy our amazing country and trek its hills and valleys, we must add selfie safety to the list of outdoor knowledge/ backwoods skills and keep an eye on our fellow travellers who may take unnecessary risks in pursuit of immortality on social media. Say Cheese!
Martin Graff Ph.D., 2018,
“Are You Taking Too Many Selfies?“, www.psychologytoday.com
Discover The Palm Beaches, 2017,
“How to use the Selfie Trail in The Palm Beaches”, www.youtube.com