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The death of the selfie

The death of the selfie was predicted earlier this year as a growing number of destinations try and stamp out the tourist selfie. Crowds of people clamouring to get the perfect selfie with a backdrop of an Amsterdam canal bridge or Nelson’s Column not only annoys locals and the other tourists, but can also be downright dangerous.

A number of destinations have now begun to institute selfie bans. Places where selfies are now illegal include  Big cats in New York, Tower of London and Pamplona. During San Fermin, taking a selfie with the bulls could result in fines of around €3,000. In Lake Tahoe, California, selfies have been banned amid fears that visitors were putting themselves in danger by seeking the perfect bear selfie. This seems a bit mean, particularly as the bears apparently also want to get in on the act. One black bear in Colorado has been caught posing in front of motion-detecting cameras, snapping hundreds of "selfies".

Even when there is no bear present to increase the potential danger level, people seem perfectly capable of achieving ‘death by selfie’. Between 2014 and 2023, the Selfie Death Database recorded 399 selfie deaths and 76 injuries in 49 countries. This works out at around 44 deaths a year. This is still a bit less than the 63 deaths caused by lawnmowers every year in the USA, or constipation (114 deaths per year), but impressive nonetheless.

The basic message seems to be that it is very hard to prevent people being stupid, and putting themselves and others in danger as a result. This no doubt explains the almost total failure of the campaign by Amsterdam to try and get heavy drinking and smoking tourists to behave themselves. In spite of  an extensive campaign on social media telling misbehaving tourists to stay away, and signs all over the Red Light District warning of steep fines for drinking or lighting up a joint in the wrong place, little seems to have changed. A recent interview with a group of young visitors in a local newspaper drew the conclusion that the visitors don’t care, and will do it anyway.  Perhaps not surprising, seeing that a €140 euro fine for peeing in public seems a small risk compared with the danger of backing over a cliff in search of the perfect selfie.

Photo: Greg Richards

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