Show some dig­i­tal deco­rum

Cam­eras and tourists go hand in hand, but self­ies out­side memo­ri­als can be in poor taste.

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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