As surely as day follows night, people (particularly teenagers, bless their derpy hearts) will continue to immortalise their poor decisions online. For every Malala Yousafzai, Tavi Gevinson or other Inspirational Young Person™ there’s a thundering horde of feckless morons hell-bent on using social media to create interesting conversation topics for future job interviews, with the latest culprits being the idiots on Selfies at Serious Places. Selfies at Serious Places is a TUMBLR dedicated to collecting images of selfies taken at culturally inappropriate places such as Auschwitz or an unfolding crime scene.
By and large the snappers don’t appear to be terrible people. They’re merely a wee bit dopey – at worst guilty of a gaping void where their sense of emotional intelligence should be, but mostly just having a series of slightly thoughtless moments that would have been better left unrecorded.
Quite frankly, giving a kid a social media account and expecting them to use it in an emotionally nuanced fashion is like giving a typewriter to Warwick Capper and then being shocked when he fails to produce the Collected Works of Emily Dickinson.
And this is not some novel form of deviancy – the sole unique feature of this generation is their unlimited ability to permanently document developmental stages best left shrouded in mystery. I shudder to think what I would have put on Instagram had it been an option when I was a teenager (actually I have a pretty good idea, and let’s just say that the world is better off without a meticulously curated shrine to Leonardo DiCaprio's hair).
And so it is with love and only slight exasperation that I risk acquiring truly Derryn Hinch-ian levels of social relevance by bitching about Young People Online, and offer this comment on the art-form of internet self-portraiture.
Here's five times not to put yourself in the frame:
1. Do not selfie at memorials and grave sites
When taking a picture of yourself, take a nanosecond to ask yourself whether you’re in a place that is considered hallowed ground due to its status as a site of mass murder, or a perpetual memorial to the horrors of genocide. If the answer is yes, then ask yourself, do you really want to emulate the guy in the picture above? Look at his sweet, dumb mug. That is the face of someone who shouldn’t use public transport unsupervised, who can’t be trusted with fire or sharp objects and who isn’t yet allowed to decide his own bedtime.
2. Likewise funerals, dummy
Are you at your grandma’s funeral? If yes, your picture is probably not going to cause pain to survivors of genocidal violence, but your parents could probably use some emotional support right now. Put down the phone and go give your mum a hug, you big dope.
3. Places of worship
Pop star Rihanna was asked to leave Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque complex this week for posing for ‘‘inappropriate’’ pictures outside one of the world’s largest Muslim places of worship. Even though she waited until she was outside (wearing one of Grace Jones’ old pantsuits and a pensive, middle-distance stare) this is not OK. Particularly with captions like, "B*tch stole my look" in reference to female passers-by also wearing headscarves.
4. Accidents and emergencies
Are you cruising past the scene of a tragic accident? Get that grin off your face, get out of the way of emergency services and maybe resist the urge to photograph yourself taking delight at the tragic destruction of someone’s home?
5. Finally, no matter where you are, don’t take photos of vulnerable people
Like, oh say, this guy did. Charming. Also, good citizens of Instagram, if you’re travelling overseas (particularly in developing countries), please don’t feel entitled to take photos of kids on the street, no matter how adorable they are.
Firstly because it’s creepy - I’m continually astonished that people who would never in a million years stick their cameras in the face of an Australian child without permission from a parent or guardian are perfectly happy to take and post pictures of themselves high-fiving anonymous Kenyan street kids or Vietnamese fruit-vendors. Also because, shockingly, kids in developing countries have the same rights to privacy and protection as everyone else. Putting images of kids on open forums like Instagram or Facebook can provide a wealth of data to predators in countries which frequently have minimal ability to prevent or police the exploitation of children.
Follow these simple guidelines and we should all be able to avoid causing pain or distress, and get back to anticipating the absolute nightmare that elections are going to be in about 10-15 years time, when every candidate will presumably have a treasure trove of drunk teenage tweets to mine.
My current theory is that we’re spiraling into a dystopian future where all power will be concentrated among a group of political elite groomed from birth to self-censor online. Either that or a future where all candidate photos will feature duckface. And I honestly don’t know which would be worse.