Selfies or Self-Centered?

July 20, 2022


Michael Geiger

Selfies or Self-Centered?

Recently, an American tourist fell into the volcanic crater of Mt. Vesuvius.  The tourist, scraped and bruised, held on for his life dangling above a 1,000 foot fall to the base of the crater and his most certain demise.  When rescued by Italian authorities, the tourist claimed that he lost his footing while trying to take a great “selfie” of himself on the edge of the crater of the famous, and still active, volcano.  A selfie.  Not: “I wanted to experience the breathtaking awesomeness of the volcano.”  Not: “Nature inspired me and I had to get closer.”  Nope.  A selfie.  Why is it always an “American tourist”?

Just how did this American tourist Darwin warned us about get into this position?  The first step appeared to be freeing himself from the oversight of any pesky tour guide or park official while hiking the designated trail near the volcanic edge.  The second step involved literally walking past the multi-lingual warning signs instructing all not to pass and not to get any closer to the carter’s edge as conditions were not safe.  The third step involved finding a prime location on the edge of Mt. Vesuvius’ crater.

By prime location, I mean a spot where a selfie taken with his cell phone would show off Mt. Vesuvius’ crater and our hero, presumably grinning from ear to ear, but precariously balancing on the edge of the crater.  Of course, my years of legal training kick in to think that this very same selfie would confirm the complete disregard of safety notices and trespassing while simultaneously firmly establishing the tourist’s liability for damages and costs for his rescue.  The American tourist did not count on the fourth step of losing his footing and falling into the crater.  While he was saved, we can only hope he dropped his cell phone deep into the volcano for its demise.

Amazingly, there is no real outrage for this incident or conduct.  The response for an extreme selfie gone wrong is more along the lines of “Oh.  Another one?”  Recall that a year or two ago, selfies of people “planking” on the edges of balconies or mountain cliffs went viral.  Taking selfies at the very top of extremely tall structures, buildings or famous attractions is a “thing”.  For perspective, between 2008 and 2021, there have been 379 recorded “selfie”-related deaths.  That figure translates to one death every 13 days — all completely avoidable.  We appear fascinated with recording our own stupidity.

Perhaps I am completely out of touch with new societal norms.  Perhaps — no, definitely — I am not part of the cool crowd.  Then, perhaps, my frontal cortex is actually fully developed and functioning properly.

Whatever the reason, the next time I am at the beach and I see folks posing waist deep in the water with their cell phones held high for a selfie, I am not going to root for the next wave to crash their photoshoot.  However, I am not going to root against the wave either.  Let’s be safe out there folks as I have three boys who, based on their ages, lack one fully developed frontal cortex between them.  They do not need to be encouraged by the next American tourist.

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