When Tourists Get Selfie-Destructive
“Imbecile’ tourist damages famous Italy fountain by climbing it for selfie,” read the headline from this morning’s New York Post. Evidently, a 22-year-old German tourist did over $5,000 worth of damage to the iconic Fountain of Neptune in Florence when he climbed on it to take a selfie—then did even more damage on the way down!
Not the first thoughtless tourist to unwittingly vandalize a culturally significant landmark and, sadly, unlikely to be the last! The often-careless pursuit of the perfect selfie has caused not only destruction to historic sites and treasures, but to the selfie-taker’s themselves…and that is deeply disturbing.
“Social media culture has permanently shaped how we all live and exist in the world. For some, social media has provided new opportunities, insights into new ways of living, and even new career paths. For others, it has created a culture of comparison, envy, and dangerous behavior, writes Matthew H Nash for The Swiftest in his article, "Global “Death by Selfie” Database & Statistics (2023)"
“Selfie-related deaths and accidents are a global problem, but they do seem to be happening in certain places more than others,” shares Matthew. “We wouldn’t presume to definitively know the reason behind this, but certain factors likely include”:
Lax safety regulations
Cultures where extreme behavior is encouraged
High tourism destinations
Disregard for the destructive power of nature
Larger populations (which inevitably means more incidents and accidents)
As those of us who work in the hospitality industry know all too well, Selfies are an integral part of a vacation experience, and while we can make our properties safe, we can’t control the behavior of our guests. We can, however, offer up some guidelines, like those listed below:
Always follow posted guidelines. Often, threats aren’t immediately apparent to thrill-seekers and tourists. Trust the posted instructions, rules, and “Selfie Free Zones.”
Check before you pull out your camera. Wildlife, inclement weather, or other threats may not always be obvious. Do a quick double-check for safety threats before getting distracted by your phone. Phones are more distracting than most people realize.
Travel with a friend. Solo selfies can often put people in danger, but having a trusted person with you can help keep you safe (and safely snapping). Additionally, traveling with a friend means you can look out for each other or get assistance in the event of an emergency.
Don’t assume something is sturdy. Many of the accidents in the selfie death database occurred when someone thought a partition, ledge, or landing was safe, but it eroded or otherwise collapsed under the weight of a person it wasn’t designed to hold. Maintain three points of contact for optimum safety.
Have an emergency plan in place if the worst occurs. Many scenic overlooks and tourist destinations are off-the-grid. If something happens, how will you and your party get to safety?
Never, ever use a phone or electronic device while driving, walking around, or operating any kind of vehicle. That goes for anything train-related as well. No photo you’d take with or around a train is worth dying for.
Just because an animal seems friendly or docile, don’t chance it. Many wild animals can act unpredictably and without warning.
Taking selfies isn’t the only risk; posting can be risky, too. Consider safety when posting, particularly child safety. Key information like schools, routines, identifying info, and locations can be easily gleaned from posting pictures online.
“In an overwhelming attempt to capture memories, people have forgotten to make memories.” ― Abhijit Naskar, The Gospel of Technology