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Snapped the selfie, but missed the moment

It's the site of the worst nuclear disaster ever, and it's also a tourism hot spot. Photo: CNN

Is there ever a time or a place when you just shouldn’t take a selfie?

Much rage spread across the internet recently because of tourists posting Instagram photos taken at Chernobyl, the site of a deadly nuclear plant explosion in 1986. The photos were criticized as narcissistic, ignoring the suffering and death that happened there long ago.

A similar wave of anger was generated by a teen’s smiling selfie taken at the¬†Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where more than 1 million people were killed during World War II.

When is it NOT okay to take a selfie?

Is it appropriate to take a selfie at these sites? After all, they are tourists spots and tourists take photos. But given the background of these sites, is it disrespectful?

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Before addressing the question of whether to snap a selfie or not at a sensitive place, we need to start by asking: Should a photo be taken at all?

Be here now

Boyd Matheson, the host of Inside Sources on KSL Newsradio and Opinion Editor at the Deseret News, related a personal experience that he thinks illustrates the point.

Years ago, he stood at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery with his children, Sarah and McKay. Amid the hush as the crowd observed the changing of the guard, his daughter leaned over to whisper.

“Dad, Dad! They are missing the meaning of the moment by trying to capture it,” she said.

Matheson felt his daughter was spot on. So many people were shuffling and jostling each other to get the perfect video or photo, they missed out on why they were there in the first place.

“We’re so consumed with trying to capture the moment that we end up missing the moment,” Matheson said.

Everyone who’s a parent knows the scene: You’re at your daughter’s or son’s high school play or piano recital, and there is the obnoxious helicopter parent with the camera going up and down the aisle interrupting the scene by trying to get the perfect shot of Little Susy or Johnny posted on social media. But they miss the moment.

“We don’t need to be the center of the action,” Matheson observed. “It’s in those moments of feeling very small in the world that you actually get connected to the moment that matters, and that feeling of the divine.”

Matheson, on a previous trip to Japan, learned a phrase that he feels like sums up the idea: Be Here Now.