I once saw a young lady come within about one inch of committing selfie-cide. It was in the Matthias Church on Buda Hill in Budapest. The church was repainted to look a bit more . . . . colorful, if the Medieval color schemes met modern paint brightness. It’s impressive, and well worth wading through tourists to see. We were up on one of the balconies around part of the nave, and this young lady had her phone on a selfie-stick, leaning waaaaaaayyyy back over the edge of the railing to get the best shot of herself against the church. Just to prove that there is a reason for stereotypes, she was East Asian. (This was before selfie-sticks became common.) I wasn’t sure what to do if she started to fall: grab her, or look away so I didn’t have to fill out a witness statement?
She ended up not falling, although it wasn’t for lack of trying. I’d already seen “tourists with cell phones behaving very badly” in other places, most noticeably the Louvre Museum. One woman in particular would shove people out of the way, take a closeup of the art, and move to the next painting. She never looked at the results, or at the art. Everything was seen through the screen on the camera. If she ended up floating face down in the Seine River, I think at least a hundred people would have provided alibis. This was when “if you don’t post a photo, you weren’t really there” was “A Thing” on social media. It did cure me of taking photos in most museums, even when photos are allowed.
Joking aside, people have died from trying to get the perfect selfie, often falling off of cliffs. In some cases, other people tried to stop them, or children saw their parents die. The lack of spatial awareness and failed sense of danger . . . Terrible combination.
Video taking has also become a first-world problem. People are so intent on recording a scene, either for upload to social media for hits, or in order to accuse someone of something, that they get in the way of people trying to help. Or they deliberately get in the way of first-responders, for reasons I won’t go into. I laugh a little at the TV news people who dutifully report protests evaporating and people taking cover as sirens wail . . . and they are standing in the street, speculating if there is a rocket attack in progress. It’s not so funny when people intent on videoing a wreck cause a second one, or block paramedics and fire fighters. Or refuse to help, because the view through the screen is so captivating. Reality retreats behind the screen.
Had I been able to see clearly (had not yet found glasses knocked off by airbag) after the gal totaled my pickup back a few years ago, I’d probably have suggested that she hang up the phone or eat it. As it was, all she was doing was talking, just as she had been when she hit me. If she’d come trotting up to me, filming, or if a third party had come racing up to get pictures, I’m not sure what my response would have been. Impolite, that much I can pretty much guarantee.
The screen isn’t reality. Certain people do not seem to understand that the screen isn’t the real world. At least with traditional film and digital cameras, most people separated themselves from the device, and could put the thing down when needed. (Not that people didn’t do dumb things for and with traditional cameras, but still . . . ) The phone screen mediates between people and the real world, sometimes with fatal results. I chuckle at the Darwin Awards, but it’s not funny for the kids who watched their parents plunge off a cliff, or for the other people around. Or the people who had to recover the bodies and track down next-of-kin. It’s not funny for people involved in a wreck to have their pain and suffering uploaded for video hits. Educational, perhaps.
Instead of leopards and crocodiles thinning the herd, we now have motor vehicles and smart phones.