Show some digital decorum
Cameras and tourists go hand in hand, but selfies outside memorials can be in poor taste.
It happened again. Idiot tourists decide a massacre site (this time an unfolding one) was the perfect spot to capture a memory. Last month a pair of tourists in Melbourne thought it a great idea to pose for shots just metres from where a car had deliberately ploughed into a crowd, killing six and injuring dozens. Not the scene that springs to mind when I think ‘‘Kodak moment’’.
This event simply adds to the long list of cringe-worthy photographs taken when maybe the phone or camera should have been stored away. Saucy snaps at Machu Picchu or Mount Kinabalu, smiling group selfies at Auschwitz or the 9/11 memorial in New York, Instagram posts from the Holocaust memorial in Berlin of happy tourists jumping between square sculptures – these are the must-do popular poses it would seem.
I’d say the travellers are devoid of any self-awareness and dripping in naivety, but the captions and hashtags of #sad #history #memorial suggest otherwise. Some digital decorum lessons are in order because it seems for plenty of other travellers this sort of disaster travel box-ticking and travellogging is the norm.
As the hyper-connected world stands, you’re forgiven for thinking that if you don’t grab at least a few tourist snaps it’s almost as if you never went. Pics or it didn’t happen, as the youths say. I will rest easy if I don’t see your bare butt atop Machu Picchu or at Angkor Wat. If you visit Krakow, I will assume you made it out to Auschwitz without you posting a pic of your dumb grin by the morbid ‘‘Work Sets You Free’’ sign at the infamous concentration camp.
Our (brilliant) guide at the horrific World War II site described his almost daily act of telling off tourists acting inappropriately at one of the most important locations of the last century. I had thought it went without saying that you’d adopt a more solemn tone but apparently visitors even lurk in the rubble, so perhaps a few photos are the least of his worries.
Yes, I know, it made sense to you at the time: why not interrupt that stream of beach and hotel view photos you’re posting with some darker, grey memorials, just to show the rest of us at home that it wasn’t all shopping, snoozing and cocktails in the sun. You learnt some facts! In between selfies. Maybe. Something about a massacre? If your main concern at a culturally sensitive site is finding your best angle or the right lighting, perhaps it’s best you stay at home. Or at least do me a favour and when asked by locals where you’re from, just say Australia.
There will be those that say, since a picture speaks a thousand words, surely a selfie in front of a historic site can help spread knowledge about horrific atrocities. A picture does speak a thousand words, but in this case, all it says is the tasteless tourist is a bit of a narcissistic voyeur perhaps looking for validation in the wrong kind of way. The world may be connected like never before, but social media posts like this show a total lack of connection with the world right in front of you. ❚
Selfies strip sites of gravitas E8
Email if you have a travel issue you’d like Josh Martin, a London-based travel journalist, to write about.
It goes without saying that you have to act appropriately when visiting historical sites like the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz in Poland.