How to keep your selfie game in check

Published October 23rd, 2015

In life, respect goes a long way. When we're talking travel, it means everything.

Earlier this year, two Canadians, a Brit and a Dutchman were jailed in Borneo for getting nude on Mount Kinabalu; French travellers were detained in Sri Lanka for pretending to kiss a Buddha at a temple; and two women in Rome were arrested for carving their initials into the Colosseum and taking a photo.

Then there's the bizarre trend of stripping down in Cambodia's Angkor Archaeological Park, most famous for the Angkor Wat temple. Many signs now warn about how nudity desecrates the sacred site; in case it wasn't already obvious that exposing your bits at a temple just might be considered offensive.

What happened to the good old fashioned 'holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa' shot?

These incidents are just some examples where photo ops have gone far beyond cultural cringe and ignorance. Let's not forget why we're here, folks.

Most would agree selfies are the new 'wish you were here' postcard, but some digital manners leave a lot to be desired.

Social media is just a filter and caption away, meaning many holiday hotspots and iconic sites are merely backdrops and fodder for the perfect, instantly sharable #selfie.

It's wonderful that travel has become widely accessible, but it seems some travellers are using cheap fares, cheap accom and cheap booze as an excuse to drink and selfie their way across borders, islands and continents without any respect for local cultures, history or traditions.

The debaucherous delights of Bali's Kuta and Patong Beach in Thailand are one thing, but when you're taking happy snaps in your birthday suit amid ancient ruins – or defacing them – you deserve to be named and shamed on a weekly current affairs show. Or be featured in a 'what not to do' blog. Like this one. #sorrynotsorry

Simply, it all comes down to basic mindfulness. Respect the land you're on, respect the locals you meet and respect the traditional customs. And keep your clothes on.

Bypass that Aussie pub to pay your respects at memorial sites, explore ruins and listen to stories about murderous monarchs and vengeful ghosts, but for the love of X Pro II (one of Instagram's most popular filters, ICYDK) put your phone away and embrace your surrounds.

No one likes a bogan, but most of all, no one likes a disrespectful tourist with a smartphone.

Before you take that next potentially risque holiday pic, ask yourself:

- Is what I'm planning illegal or unsafe?

- Is this photo worth risking jail time and a lifetime of embarrassment on the interwebs?

- Could this photo disrespect any local customs or traditions?

- Have I asked everyone in my photo – especially kids and locals – for their permission?

- Am I really planning to waste 10 minutes on a selfie instead of making the most of this view/experience/meal?

Anna Howard

I thrive on discovering hidden gems and local haunts wherever I travel, from hole-in-the-wall cafes and dive bars, to antique stores and eclectic markets. I feel just as content in a cosy cabin in the wilderness as I do lost in the crowd of a buzzing city.