In June this year, a British-Australian couple fell to their deaths ‘while taking a selfie’ in Portugal.
A month later, an Instagrammer known for posting daredevil shots of his feet dangling off cliffs and skyscrapers tragically fell to his death from a New York City building.
The common factor? They had willingly placed themselves in these dangerous situations – all in pursuit of a perfect picture.
But do we have to die “for the ‘gram”?
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The real value of ‘likes’, the social currency of today
Acceptance and validation are always important, and today it looks like everyone wants to be seen and heard in some way, especially on social media.
And, from individuals to influencers, many are starting to view ‘likes’ as a validation, a ticket to lucrative sponsorship deals, or even a path to fame and fortune.
With the proliferation of social media, more and more people are becoming influencers, and the bar is now so much higher.
Which means people have to be increasingly dramatic and interesting in order get attention or to stay relevant.
Safety first, photoshoot second
Singapore-based influencer Patricia Alejos Monzon shared a picture of herself on Instagram posing in front of a moving train and was criticised by netizens for risking her safety for the sake of a picture.
But Monzon pointed out that she was at the Maeklong Railway Market in Thailand, where the train moves extremely slowly. This was not made clear in her original post, though, and Monzon unapologetically declared: “I am not the first and won’t be the last person taking a photo here or any other dangerous places.”
Did she think of those who wish to recreate her photo but cannot access the slow-moving trains in Maeklong Railway? She may not have been in any real danger when that image was taken, but would her followers know that? What if they put themselves in a risky situation – in front of a moving train – for a similar shot?
Nevertheless, while it can be argued that she and other influencers have a responsibility to their audience as to what they may advocate – intentionally or otherwise, the responsibility goes both ways. Followers should also be judicious about what to do and what not to do, because not every picture is what it seems.
Posting ‘under the influence’?
Instead of blasting influencers, we should ask ourselves how they got where they are in the first place. Because in reality, it is regular people like you and me who birthed and enable this generation of fame-hungry influencers. By “liking” their incessant, at-times vapid posts, we give them validation and power.
Have you asked yourself why you are liking someone’s post? The answer to that question may be something as simple as, “because this girl is beautiful”, or “because the dish looks beautiful”.
We need to go beyond that to ask ourselves: By liking “beautiful girls”, do we promote unattainable, posed and Photoshopped beauty? Many experts seem to think so – apps like Instagram and Snapchat have been linked to the rise of body dysmorphic disorder.
By liking beautiful food, do we promote hipster dishes, where how the dish looks matters more than how it tastes?
And, by liking influencers’ posts in general, are we promoting influence as a lifestyle or a career?
We all have that friend who’s insistent that they are going to be tomorrow’s social media star. I even have two female friends who, after graduating from university, decided against a full-time job in order to focus on their Instagram accounts.
Being a blogger or a social media star is definitely a viable career choice, if they have the numbers. And we ought to consider that it was perhaps our own obsession with social media that has contributed to the validation of this as a career option.
So, while there’s nothing wrong with snapping a few pictures to capture a memory, why let the expectations of social media overwhelm or control your life? There’s no need to make a photoshoot out of every scenario, or, worse yet, to visit locations specifically to Instagram it.
And if you do feel like putting up an image of yourself at a location you are visiting, do so without putting yourself in peril. Because I’m sure your friends on social media would prefer to see you enjoying life instead of losing it.