Travellers who take selfies on vacation expose themselves to potential hazards, and strategies should be implemented by the travel industry to educate travellers about responsible self-photography and the health risks of taking selfies on vacation
With the ubiquitous use of smartphones and social media, it is expected that travellers will use their mobile devices to capture their experiences and share it with friends and family. One of the most recognized smartphone-user activities is the ‘selfie’, or self-photography using the forward-facing camera. When taking selfies on vacation, travellers are often disoriented from jet-lag, unfamiliar with their surroundings, under the influence of alcohol, or pressured to take a photo while in motion. This places the traveller and others at risk for injury because taking a selfie reduces awareness to their environment.
In a recent paper published in the Journal of Travel Medicine, the injuries experienced by travellers when taking selfies, including the use of selfie sticks and social media, were examined. All reports published in 2015 in 2 medical literature databases and media reports were reviewed using the search key word ‘travel’ in combination with ‘selfie’, ‘self-photography’, ‘smartphone’, ‘mobile phone’ and ‘social media’. It was discovered that a wide range of selfie-related injuries and traumatic events have occurred, including injuries with selfie sticks, animal inflicted injuries, muggings, falls from bridges or stairs, pedestrian injuries, sporting event injuries to participants and spectators, traffic accidents, and self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Numerous tourist fatalities have also occurred, ranging from head injuries after falling down the stairs at the Taj Mahal and off a bridge in St. Petersburg, and being electrocuted by lightning when holding up a selfie stick during a storm in Wales.
There is currently little guidance on the potential health risks in taking selfies when travelling, and the development of strategies to engage and educate travellers on this topic is needed. As a result of over 10 deaths and over 100 selfie-induced injuries in 2015 alone, the Russian Federation has created a ‘Safe Selfie’ pamphlet and video campaign that depicts high-risk selfie situations. The Chinese city of Chongqing has designated walking lanes for people using their smartphones to reduce pedestrian injuries, and in Europe, the Ford ‘Driving Skills for Life’ program now includes the dangers of taking selfies while driving. To further reduce injuries and fatalities, it is suggested that additional research should be conducted on this phenomenon and that the travel industry should draw attention to risks associated with selfie-taking and communicate these risks to travellers and their healthcare advisors.
Written By: Fiona Wong, PhD