We love pushing the limits of our ethical boundaries, and we're using selfies as the weapon to do so.
Yesterday morning when a suicidal man climbed to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, onlookers gathered nearby to watch the event, as people usually do. People took pictures and some may have even filmed, but one unidentified woman allegedly decided to turn the camera on herself, positioning it in just the right way to catch the distraught man in the background as police climbed to retrieve him. A photographer from the New York Post happened to be there, and took a photo of the woman mid-selfie. When asked for her name, the woman may have then recognized her faux pas, since she declined to give it and promptly left. Now her act landed her the cover of the Post.
It's possible that the woman may have awkwardly taken a photo of what was in front of her, instead of a selfie. Remember, the New York Post hasn't been entirely spot on with their cover choices. Either way, this isn't the first selfie-based outrage to pop up recently. People have been taking selfies at funerals, concentration camps, and with people's ashes, to name a few. But, why? Simple: It's about "I." There seems to be a selfish urge in us to want to be the center of attention, so much so that it clouds our judgment in situations where a certain amount of etiquette is expected. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with documenting an event, even if it is a suicidal man (who likely suffers from a mental illness) is deciding if he is going to jump to his death or not. The question gets a little more complicated when a photographer has to face whether they might get involved in helping a subject, but this isn't the case here. Neither was that the case in one of the most famous pictures to come out of September 11th: "The Falling Man."
The photo of a man jumping out of one of the World Trade Center towers received a lot of criticism, and was deemed by many as being insensitive to victims. Yet the photojournalist, Associated Press photographer Richard Drew, was doing his job, and did it well, by catching a powerful moment on one of the more significant days in our nation's history. Today, with the cameras on our phones becoming more efficient than ever, you don't have to be a paid journalist with a DSLR camera to attempt journalistic work, like taking photographs of significant events. Just being at the right place at the right time is enough to document the event for others to view later.
But somewhere down the line, instead of taking photographs of a scene while it's unfolding, people want to make sure they're SEEN along with it. Our faces are our own personal watermark. There's nothing wrong with selfies, but in situations like this, our narcissism bleeds through.
Hey, but it just might get you on the cover of a magazine.
Follow Jason Duaine Hahn on Twitter: @JasonDuaine