Selfie Harm

Selfie Harm

A recent rash of selfie-inflicted accidents has me wondering — should we ban the selfie?

A tourist from China plunged 1,000 feet to his death at the Grand Canyon on March 28. Yup, another death by selfie.

I don’t mean to sound flip, but really, far too many people are getting into jams, or simply creating jams, by dramatically posing for self-pictures at major travel destinations. With summer coming, and with it the selfie tsunami building again, on those leisure outings you manage to squeeze in on business trips, you will probably agree with me that selfie madness might need  more controls.

The man at the Grand Canyon had been posing for a scenic, dramatic selfie when he stumbled and fell from the rim of an overlook at the Eagle Point observation area, a popular destination within the Hualapai Indian reservation on the western stretch of the canyon outside the boundary of Grand Canyon National Park.

In other recent selfie news:

—An entitled couple in a chartered helicopter circumvented the picture-taking mobs  crowding the magnificent springtime “super-bloom” of poppies at Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in the desert north of Los Angeles on March 25. The helicopter clattered down onto the flowers, the (so far unidentified) couple sprang out, took a stroll with their dog, snapped some selfies, and away they clattered into the sky, like an image of the Fall of Saigon, when a law enforcement officer approached.

The desert super-blooms, occasioned by the winter’s abundant rainfall, had already been drawing mobs of picture-taking visitors who jammed the roads and swarmed over the poppy fields, but this was a selfie too far. A Twitter tag #Don’tDoomTheBloom sprang up along with the poppies and the widespread outrage. “We never thought it would be explicitly necessary to state that it is illegal to land a helicopter in the middle of the fields and begin hiking off-trail in the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve,” a statement from the reserve said, adding: “We were wrong.”

—In Amsterdam, the city curtailed guided tourist excursions of the city’s famous red-light district starting on April 1 to relieve overcrowding and “to show respect for the sex workers.” Tour bookers sell excursions to groups eager to take selfies with the prostitutes in shopfront windows as backdrops. “It is outdated to treat sex workers as a tourist attraction,” a city official told The New York Times.

—In Phoenix in March, a woman who climbed over a barrier to take a selfie had her arm  mauled by a jaguar at Wildlife World Zoo -- and the ensuing social-media outcry so overwhelmingly supportive of the wild cat that the zoo had to issue a statement saying that the jaguar was not harmed and was resting well.

The more dangerous aspects of selfie madness worldwide are driven by social media, where “ the number of likes, comments and shares they get for their selfies are social currency,” according to a study of selfie deaths at Carnegie Mellon University, which found that between March 2014 and September 2016, 127 people died around the world in ill-advised attempts to take selfies.

A backlash is growing. For example selfies are banned at the running of the bulls festivals in Pamploma and other cities in Spain, where tourist crowds have become overwhelming and where daredevils eager to memorialize their bravery have learned the hard way that stampeding bulls insist on the having the right-of-way.

Meanwhile, the numerous places where selfie-sticks are now banned include the Vatican Museums, the Tower of London, Versailles, mush of waterfront Mumbai, the major museums in New York, Disney World, the Getty in Los Angeles, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Coachella and the Kentucky Derby.

The list goes on and on and it keeps growing. But really, you get the picture.


MEMO PAD – Lyft, the first ride-hailing company to go public, set its initial share price at $72 before it began trading on Nasdaq last week. After the first day the stock closed at $78.29. Do the arithmetic and that adds up to a $27 billion valuation, quite a ride for a company that hasn’t made a nickel in profit yet, and a rousing affirmation by investors of the viability of the ride-hailing market …

…WOW Air, the Icelandic low-fare airline known for cheap trans-Atlantic flights, went out of business suddenly on March 28, stranding thousands of passengers. “Passengers are advised to check available flights with other airlines,” the airline advised on its website under the headline “Travel Alert,” which actually should have read “No Travel Alert.” …

…A sleeping orangutan that had been sedated with allergy pills was found in a Russian passenger’s carry-on bag, along with baby formula and a blanket, at Denpasar airport in Bali in mid-March. The passenger said he was bring it back to Russia as a pet, authorities said. …The operators of the Queen Mary tourist attraction and hotel in Long Beach, California, said they plan to remove the rusting old Russian submarine Scorpion that’s moored beside the old cruise ship because it’s infested with raccoons …

… Qatar Airways is now flying its top-shelf business class, Qsuite, on daily flights to and from Boston, the airline’s seventh gateway to feature the product.

About the Author: Joe Sharkey
Joe Sharkey’s work appears in major national and international publications. For 19 years, until 2015, he was a columnist for the New York Times — for 16 years doing the weekly “On the Road” column on business travel, and before that the weekly “Jersey” column for three years. He is currently a columnist with Business Jet Traveler magazine, and an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Arizona. A Vietnam veteran, he has written five books, four non-fiction and a novel. One of his nonfiction books, “Above Suspicion,” has been adapted as a major motion picture starring Emilia Clarke, Jack Huston, Thora Birch and Johnny Knoxville (and directed by Phillip Noyce), to be released soon. In January 2017, a new, revised edition of his book “Above Suspicion” was published in print and as an e-book by Open Road Media. Penguin Random House also released an audio book version in January. Open Road also published revised editions in e-book format of his true-crime books “Death Sentence” and “Deadly Greed.” In January 2018, the revised edition of “Death Sentence” was published in print by Open Road Media. In his newspaper career before the New York Times, he was an assistant national editor at the Wall Street Journal; the executive city editor of the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union; and a reporter and columnist with the Philadelphia Inquirer. On Sept. 29, 2006, while on assignment, he was one of seven people on a business jet who survived a mid-air collision with a 737 at 37,000 feet over the Amazon in Brazil. All 154 on the commercial airliner died. His reports on the crash appeared on the front page of the New York Times and later in the Sunday Times of London Magazine. He and his wife Nancy (who is a professor of journalism at the University of Arizona) live in Tucson — where he is also working on a new novel about the exploits of an international travel writer who hates to travel. .