DUNSTABLE, Bedfordshire, England – The hostage situation in Sydney had to be one of the most shocking stories in recent times. Not only because of how quickly it has unfolded – the rapid twists and turns it took – but also due to a twist so sickening, I had to do a triple-take when I read the headline.
People were taking ‘selfies’ outside the Lindt Chocolat Cafe, in the Australian city’s central business district, where innocent people were being threatened with guns and bombs and held against their will.
These hostages were held for 16 hours by an extremist gunman and made to stand in the window of the cafe, holding up a fundamentalist flag and rotating every two hours, with an ever-increasing crowd of police, people and the media gathering outside. Now, after police stormed the cafe, two of them are dead and four others are seriously injured. The gunman has also been killed.
Now, crowds tend to gather at the scene of something like this. Out of genuine concern, or curiosity, human nature means we will always feel inclined to stop and look. Sometimes, people even help – it’s instinct – and sometimes, it’s life-saving.
But to actually stand outside a place where people are actively experiencing immense pain, as are their families and friends, and to take a photo of yourself, smiling as if you’ve achieved something…
Don’t you have to have something wrong with you, to think there’s something entertaining about that?
Don’t you have to have a complete lack of empathy with the rest of humankind to delight in other people’s suffering?
And they’re not the only ones. I’m still in awe at how the rise of the ‘inappropriate selfie’ has come about. To resort to a camera in a situation like that, to most people, is a completely foreign idea.
Whilst turning to social media can be useful for news purposes and police evidence, the idea that people will head for it before aiding the people in trouble, or simply putting the phone down and having a bit of respect for their suffering is dumbfounding.
I’ve seen pictures of people posing in front of unconscious people, others posing in front of crying people and – the worst – people taking selfies inside Auschwitz.
That last one made me turn my computer off and stare into space for about 10 minutes.
To be honest, the fact that these people don’t see the ‘inappropriate selfie’ as wrong is probably an indication that the world is too far-gone down the social media route.
A decent sense of right and wrong has been distorted by the different rules of the virtual world, so when people enter the physical one, they think the same rules apply.
Maybe these people should think about the hostages inside the café – people who were just going about their lives when they found themselves passing last messages to their loved ones, not knowing if help was coming, or if they’d get out alive, and how they would feel knowing their ordeal was used for entertainment.
Perhaps the only thing that will make these ‘inappropriate-selfie-takers’ pause to think are the images now dominating the social networks they love so much – those of the surviving, grief-stricken victims being freed from their ordeal.
I only hope these selfie-obsessed people will never know the intense grief the victims and their loved ones have had to endure.
Myah Guild is a Senior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.
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