A 66-year-old Japanese tourist died, and his travel companion injured, after falling down stairs while attempting to take a selfie at the Taj Mahal in India. The man’s death raised the selfie-related death toll to 12 at the time; in comparison, there had been eight deaths caused by shark attacks. It sounds like a joke, but unfortunately it isn’t: The deaths are a tragic reminder to travelers that focusing on a phone screen instead of unfamiliar surroundings is not safe. Four of the selfie deaths were caused by falling. The next leading cause of deaths involving selfies was being hit or injured by trains, either because the individual was trying to get a photo with a train or because the photo they wanted involved getting on dangerous equipment.
It is not clear if the number of daredevil selfies is increasing, but more and more tourists are making headlines because of their dangerous attempts at a memorable photo. Parks are having to close because visitors keep trying to take selfies with bears, bull runs, and other dangerous animals. What is worse, the challenge posed by these kinds of selfie taking is complicated by the fact that no one knows how far some people will go for a great selfie. And it is a serious issue because selfie accidents have claimed over 127 lives in the past three years – according to studies. As a reaction, some tourist sites now have “no selfie” zones. But should this be enforced?
The risk of accidents is one part of the possible outcomes of wrong use of holidays. The other part has to do with being bodily present, and mentally absent. Where holidays used to be occasions to bond with family members, friends, or colleagues – chronicling images being an afterthought, the reverse has become the case today. Holidays are now for the evidence; people feel compelled to offer indisputable evidence that they made the trip, that they carried out the program, that they had fun, or, they create the illusion that they had fun. And wherever reality falls short (regarding how they want to tell the stories), there are photo editing apps to turn to, and these effectively alter reality.
The motives behind this trend is not new to anybody, but the question can at least be asked: Where should one draw the line between sanity and extreme, if everybody is compelled to tell their holiday stories with picture evidences? “Killfies” is the term used for these selfies that turn fatal; it is a new development. Something older, and perhaps more worrying, is the passivity with which people holiday these days.
As moderation is pursued, and the more silent issues raised by this piece pondered, here is hoping that before clicking “share,” there’s a moment to enjoy the view and a sip of instant coffee. Without getting elbowed. Or poked with a selfie stick. Or tagging that photo #Instabruise. Or, worse still, #Killfie.