Selfies can be injurious to more than just one’s blood pressure, or so say a group of volunteers tasked with studying “human behaviour” at the Kumbh Mela this year. Based on their recommendation, the local administration has banned the taking of selfies near the ghats in Nashik and Trimbakeshwar on specific days, for fear that too-eager pilgrims will cause stampedes in their attempts to document their communion with god. Given the ways in which selfie addicts have imperilled their lives, not just by making a public nuisance of themselves, the ban is probably prudent.
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People have fallen off ledges as well as bridges, shot themselves while posing with guns, been electrocuted on the top of trains and angered rattlesnakes that objected to being used as props. Selfies appear to be like catnip for thrill-seekers with exhibitionist tendencies, so much so that Russian police, alarmed by the number of their compatriots recklessly endangering their lives in pursuit of exciting selfies, issued a warning brochure in July to discourage the practice. Even the “happiest place on Earth”, aka Disneyland, has shown its distaste for this expression of narcissism.
It has banned selfie sticks, joining those repositories of permanence, the museum and the gallery, in their attack on technology-enabled self-aggrandisement. No selfie sticks are allowed, for instance, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A less likely collaborator is Lollapalooza, the outdoor music festival in Chicago, which has added selfie sticks to its list of contraband, which includes “illegal drugs, skateboards and aerosol cans”. Staff at Lake Tahoe are asking visitors to resist the temptation to tempt fate by turning their backs on bears to take selfies.
Still, officials are probably fighting a losing battle in trying to create selfie-free zones. What’s a feat of derring-do without a few hundred likes? In the “photos or it didn’t happen” age, a selfie is practically proof of life.