Blog # 7 (22 January 2018)

"To Selfie" or "Not-To-Selfie"? this is the Question...

Travelling from one tourist site to another everywhere I see people taking selfies: in front of monuments, buildings, landscapes, waterfalls, animals…. It seems as they are driven by a collective impulse to prove to the rest of the world “I have been there”. With mobile phone cameras and the possibility to share a selfie via social media not the landscape, the building, the monument is in the center, the new story is "ME in front of the landscape, building, monument…"


Google estimated that in 2015 some 25 billion selfies have been uploaded on Google media. As it seems the message” I have been there because I have taken a picture of the place” is not strong enough anymore. It has to be the “Me in front of XY." A simple interpretation might be that human vanity is on the rise and show-off is the purpose.

As human arms often are too short to make a proper selfie (or the selfie produces a funny bulbous nose) a whole business branch has developed with dozens of street vendors clustered around each major touristic sites trying to sell all kind of self-sticks.

Initially I was strongly against making selfies myself and resisted fo ra couple of years. I rather was on the hunt to take pictures of people making selfies to document (and expose) human vanity – basically making fun of people clicking selfies (see some two nice examples on the left side).


Travelling with my partner Ursula I slowly started to soften my viewpoint. Actually, she had a convincing argument: Making a selfie of the two of us cresates a memory and sends the message that we are a couple. Such a selfie is memory of shared time and actually it is the same as if we give our camera to a third person to take a picture of us. Thus, I eventually gave in and soem months ago bought a selfie stick in Cusco / Peru. With a bit of wickedness in the back of my mind I bought Ursula a pink selfie stick knowing that she is a pronounced feminist.

As a next step I had to redefine my own red lines: If the message is “Ursula and myself doing something together” a selfie is ok for me. However, us or me in front of XY still is a no-go.

And finally I found my own very special niche: Taking a selfie is ok, when it implies to document a particular effort to take this selfie, e.g. a selfie when swimming with a sea turtle or a shark-selfie…. (for obvious reasons I do no plan to make a lion-selfie 😊).


By the way be cautious: Taking selfies can be quite risky. In the period Jan 2014 until Sept 2016 a minimum of 127 persons have died when clicking a selfie (Details see Hemank Lamba, Varun Bharadhwaj, Mayank Vachher, Divyansh Agarwal, Megha Arora, Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, Me, Myself and My Killfie: Characterizing and Preventing Selfie Deaths See also a website which provides practical advice re how not to kill yourself when taking a selfie.

By the way: While there are commonly more women taking selfies, among the causalities 75 % are male.



I got some nice responses to this blog and would like to share one where a former colleague of mine explained me a situation where a selfie helped her to overcome nervousness: “I was about to facilitate a workshop for feminist lawyers on the international legal framework for prevention and response to GBV for a full day. I got so nervous in the morning … I just said, “Shoot! I’ll take a selfie.” I captioned it “When in doubt, take a selfie” and I felt so much better after that 😊”

So there is another good reason for taking selfies.