Taking photographs of oneself, or a ‘selfie’, usually with a cell phone and uploading it to the internet has become a huge craze among social media users, especially in the younger generations. There have been many remarks on this trend including satirical articles about selfie-related disorders and body positivity blogs announcing that taking selfies can boost self-esteem.
Many people criticize the millennial generation for their selfie-taking obsession and view it as a marker of social decay. They fear that the constant need to be online is removing ‘real’ social interaction and creating a zombie, personality-less generation. They believe that the photos are a result of narcissism and self-indulgence that is fuelled by the online world and criticize selfie-posters as desperate and vain. To some extent, they may be correct, but it has come to recent attention of internet-users that this is by far the least problematic element of the selfie generation.
There have been many blogs and websites compiling a series of wildly inappropriate times and places to take a selfie, including in the bathroom, while babysitting or holding an urn of ashes. On blog has put together a series of selfies at funerals, prompting people to express their outrage. However, the most contraversial seems to be the latest craze of teenagers taking selfies at landmarks with terrible historical connotations such as Auschwitz and the Holocaust Memorial.
Auschwitz was the largest and most infamous concentration camp during the Nazi regime where over one million Jews and other minorities died during the Second World War. The site is now open to tourists and visitors who are encouraged to (respectfully) observe the location where these atrocities occurred.
An Israeli Facebook page roughly translated as “With my Besties at Auschwitz” displayed people taking selfies at the historical landmark. The page had over 12,000 likes before it was removed after complaints of inappropriateness.
This type of selfie seems inappropriate because we are convinced that taking selfies is a narcissistic and attention-seeking act. However, as Dr. Thorin Tritter of the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics comments, people may be choosing to take selfies at Auschwitz because they want a personal memory of their time remembering the history of the place and may not have someone to take the photo for them. They are trying to “leave their mark” on a place that they will probably only visit once in their lifetime.
Dr. Tritter’s perspective is a refreshing take on the usual criticism of young people and their selfies. Although some see them as inappropriate, he offers the idea that perhaps the teenagers merely want to bring to light the gradually fading histories in a way that other youth can understand. It is possible to conclude that while some are just self-absorbed, vain and attention-seeking individuals, others are genuinely honouring the past in the only way the 21st century allows them to.