It’s no secret that photographers will often risk life and limb for the perfect selfie.
In recognition of that, Instagram has awarded a grant to Australian researchers to help improve safety at selfie hotspots where people have been seriously injured in pursuit of likes, comments and follows.
Coronial data indicates that two to three Australians die from photo-related incidents each year, but the reality is that many more people seriously injure themselves or even require rescuing after taking a snap at a precarious spot.
“On the one hand, I can say there is the appeal, because you do create an amazing shot, but is it really worth the risk?” Dr Amy Peden from the UNSW Beach Safety Research Group told The New Daily.
“It’s about recognising it does happen to be people like Instagram users, and that they could just take a second and think about it before they lose themselves in the photo, and in the app.”
To make iconic selfie spots safer, Dr Peden and other researchers will develop safety warnings that will pop up in the app when people use Instagram.
Although the exact implementation is still being worked out with the help of Instagram engineers, the end result might look like a message popping up when someone geotags their photo at a notorious location, or uses a certain hashtag that references a risky spot.
“I really modelled this on COVID information and the way that on social media now if you’re using a certain hashtag or searching a particular term that relates to COVID-19, or the pandemic, it tries to link you up to a verified source – usually the Australian government,” Dr Peden said.
At the Figure 8 Pools just south of Sydney, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service provides an online risk guide about the fast-changing tide, which could form the basis of one of the Instagram warnings.
At Wedding Cake Rock, also in Royal National Park, a 1.6-metre-high fence, warning signs and threats of fines haven’t stopped Instagrammers from posing on the unstable sandstone cliff edge.
Based off hashtags alone, both spots have been photographed about 30,000 times each on Instagram.
Other notoriously dangerous selfie spots Dr Peden pointed to included MacKenzie Falls in the Grampians, Windin Falls near Cairns, and the cliffs at Breton Bay in Western Australia, where two people fell and had to be rescued just four days ago.
The project will also include several popular locations in California.
There’s an even bigger risk for selfie spots that aren’t yet famous, especially because they tend to be more remote and harder to access.
As part of its research, the UNSW team will also talk to land managers and local council officials to hear their concerns about risky selfie behaviour at spots that might not have been documented yet.
“It will be about how we can get on top of those kinds of locations as well that will go viral and trend before anyone can really get their head around how to get across to safety,” Dr Peden said.
“Young people will find a spot, thrash it, everyone will go, and then they’ll move on to the next spot and we’re playing catch-up.”
How to stay safe while getting the perfect selfie
Dr Peden listed several common sense tips to keep in mind when taking photos or selfies in precarious locations:
- Always heed warning signs and fences
- Make sure to check the tide and wave heights
- Be mindful of weather conditions, especially now that La Niña is set to bring increased rainfall
- Avoid cliff edges and rocky outcrops
- Remember: A photo is not worth your life.