When visiting popular tourist spots nowadays, you can’t help but encounter the selfie stick. These devices are the natural extension and highest expression of the self. Whether you’re at Buckingham Palace or the Taj Mahal, the top of Table Mountain or the Sphinx, you’re sure to see the necks of these narcissistic giraffes poking above the throng. There’ll be hordes of punters obsessing over their screen images, pouting lips or craning their necks, posing for the perfect snap.
The smartphone has changed the way we travel: live photos and videos have turned solitary adventures into real-time social events. Where once we used slideshows, photo albums and postcards to share our travel memories, we now post images and selfies on the fly. Indeed, the ‘Instagrammability’ of a destination has become vital to many travellers. For some, the journey or holiday is about how many selfies one takes, how many poses one strikes and the string of hashtags they illicit. Even our monthly Getaway Gallery photo competition is inundated with selfie entries. In all of this, the self is placed firmly centre stage; the destination reduced to backdrop.
Using social media you can flaunt your own image, lifestyle and environment. In theory, you’re both creator and controller of that image. This phenomenon is heightened when travelling, allowing you to boast about your fabulous holiday and receive instant validation (via shares or likes).
The urge to share selfies comes with risks. Some people get so caught up in the moment that they throw caution to the wind. Risk-takers flock to cliff edges, the tops of skyscrapers and busy railway tracks to take their daring snaps. As these grow in popularity, so does the pressure to capture ever more death-defying images. This trend has spawned the ‘killfie’. India accounts for 40 per cent of the world’s selfie deaths, which has forced its government to declare more than a dozen no-selfie zones.
At its extreme, digital narcissism is an addiction, thriving on the need to counter low self-esteem. Yet there is so much more nourishment to be had by fully engaging with the destination. Whether it’s a foreign city or culture, a nature reserve or mountain, travel should be about looking outwards.
When visiting a new destination, it’s easy to get trapped by the little screen in your hand. But selfies, snaps of your food and all the other temptations your smartphone offers, create a filter between you and your environment. Rather look up, listen, feel and resist the temptation to share. Talk to locals and wander the backstreets without resorting to Google Maps. Be in the moment, not the cyber moment. Make your journey less about the quick hit of social media, and more about a slow investment of time in place. Awaken the adventure by putting your screen to sleep.
We hope you enjoy our March issue. And if you’re going to be in Cape Town, don’t miss our fabulous Getaway Show from 6–8 March. tickets.computicket.com