Graphic by Angelica Cruz.

Don’t Fucking Selfie

Put the phone down, and think about where you’re at


On Sept. 11, 2001, America was attacked by a group known as Al-Qaeda. According to CNN, 2,753 people died when four planes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania.

This day became a dark day in modern American history, the world was distraught, confused, angry, and in mourning, for months. There was an war started oversees due to these terrorist attacks.

The area where America’s darkest day happened in lower Manhattan has now been turned into a touching memorial. There is a museum with artifacts, biographies on those who were lost in the attacks, and memorial of the day’s events in the museum.

While the area has now become a tourist attraction, it is still the site where thousands of people lost their lives, where family members still go to pay their respects or ‘visit’ lost loved ones, and where a memorial to the nation’s darkest day is built.

On the other hand, through the internet and social media giants such as Instagram and Facebook, the rise of ‘selfies’ have come to surface. Selfie Culture is great. Selfies are great. At weddings, graduations, baby showers, football games, when meeting a celebrity, or just showing off a new outfit. But, there is a time and place for everything and I assure you that a memorial, a place that honors the dead, is not.

A story recently came about that discussed an artist shamed tourists who were taking disrespectful photos while visiting Holocaust Memorials. The artist took the photos of the tourists posing in casual photos, such as selfies and photoshopped them to have actual Holocaust photos as the backdrop. The images were shocking. In hindsight the tourists would write to the artists and apologize for their behavior in the photographs, and only after this apology would the artist delete the photo.

While visiting the 9/11 Memorial for the first time, I saw a man crouched down in front of the wall with thousands of names inscribed in it, armed with a selfie stick, positioning himself in the perfect angle for a selfie. My stomach turned. Here we stood, on land that was once covered in dead bodies, limbs, ash, personal affects, and ruins of the symbol of the American economy, and this man is about to take a fucking selfie.

But this man was one of many. In an article released by Vice titled “Photos of People Taking Selfies at the 9/11 Memorial,” there is an epidemic of people thinking the most inappropriate of places are good times to take a selfie.

Perhaps, this man missed the article mentioned above. Perhaps, his own vanity blinded him to his own ignorant behavior. Perhaps, he did not see the severity of his actions. Maybe if he had images of the World Trade Center rubble under him, he would understand why this was disrespectful.

A selfie in front of a memorial like the 9/11 one in New York cheapens the event it is dedicated to and lessens the severity of the event that took place. If a grieving family was standing next to the man, would he still take the smiling selfie? Probably not.

Memorials dedicated to tragic events are not the place to take selfies, people died there. Tragic events are to be remembered for what they are, tragic. Not something that one should smile in front of and take a photo in vain.