We've seen many tragic stories this week about the rising number of deaths of climbers on Mount Everest, accompanied by some gobsmacking photos of literal human traffic jams to reach the peak.
One of the most compelling descriptions of the chaos atop the mountain came in The New York Times, with one climber noting how people were 'pushing and shoving' to take selfies on the flat part of the summit, which measures around the size of two ping pong tables.
The phenomenon of putting your life on the line for the sake of social media glory isn't anything new, but it's still a breathtaking prospect to consider. In the age of social media, where it is becoming increasingly easy to build one's identity around the pictorial hedonism of one's life, suddenly we are all public autobiographers and professional photographers—jostling, like those on top of Everest, to get the perfect shot for Instagram.
In my opinion, there's no doubt the rise in popularity of climbing Everest is fuelled by social media. I don't pass judgment on those who prioritise this quest for this very supreme content—but I wonder if there will ever be a time when AI technology can detect danger in a selfie (say, the height it's being taken from and the drop to the ground) and advise the subject to move to safety? An interesting thought...
For now though, it's clear how many industries are being drastically transformed by those wanting the ultimate selfie or Instagram story—consider what the democratisation of photography has done for the food industry, where people queue around the block for Instagrammable desserts, the travel industry, and the beauty industry particularly.
Climbers were pushing and shoving to take selfies. The flat part of the summit, which he estimated at about the size of two Ping-Pong tables, was packed with 15 or 20 people.