Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
They’ve issued a handy chart reminding you not to pose next to an enormous animal or while dangling from a building.
There’s a big difference between, say, posing with your cat and precariously hanging off a building in pursuit of the ultimate selfie. Earlier this month, a tourist scaled the Brooklyn Bridge to snap a dizzying self-portrait with the skyline in the background. (The NYPD was not amused.) In Russia, a rash of recent injuries—and a handful of deaths—testify to shutterbugs’ insistence on doing anything to get a cool shot.
The Russian government has sprung into action. Police officers will hand out an illustrated brochure depicting some selfie scenarios to avoid. Among them: posing while climbing electrical towers, in front of an oncoming train, or next to an enormous (and probably hungry) animal.
In a press release announcing the new “safe selfie” campaign, Assistant Minister of Internal Affairs Elena Alekseeva wrote:
We would like to remind the citizens that the chase for "likes" in social networks can lead to the road of death.
CityLab has previously lamented the fact that selfies erode human interaction—while sometimes requiring the assistance of a ghoulish fake hand. But some Russian officials point to a more sinister problem: What if our desire to chronicle ourselves is downright pathological? Lev Perezhogin, a senior researcher at the Federal Medical Research Center of Psychiatry and Addiction at the Ministry of Health of Russia, explained to Russia Beyond the Headlines:
Selfies manifest themselves as a form of dependence on electronic devices. For example, a person cannot post photos when there is no internet and starts to experience withdrawal symptoms like they would with heroin. Of course, this is an addiction, and it should be treated, including with medication.
While that seems wildly hyperbolic, it’s not entirely without precedent. There’s a tradition of vilifying technology—and thus far, a lack of any real consensus about its potential dangers. For instance, journals such as Psychiatry have published articles asking whether Internet addiction meets the criteria for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Nonetheless, selfies aren’t like heroin. But it’s not a bad idea to discourage thrill-seekers from mugging for the camera.