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Auschwitz, Chernobyl, the 9/11 memorial: Where is it inappropriate to take a selfie?

An individual featured on the Tumblr Selfies at Serious Places. Her offending tweet states "Basic Asian selfie in the Pearl Harbor submarine"


One of the greatest things about the Internet is that it makes sharing a breeze.

Let's say I snap a photo of myself, all doe-eyed or duck-faced: I could then post it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and within seconds my image would be encroaching on hundreds of places at once.

This image, dubbed the selfie, is defined by Oxford Dictionaries Online as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social-media website."

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Selfies, the self-portraits du jour, have gained even more prominence from celebrities like Rihanna, Khloe Kardashian and Cara Delevingne, who use the platform to get "real" with their fans. Like who knew that Rihanna gets excited about Breaking Bad?

Yet what started as a form of self-expression, narcissism and, at times, self-objectification may be entering a new realm: the absurdly offensive.

A new Tumblr called "Selfies at Serious Places" has emerged to hopefully shame some sense into people who think that mocking serious tragedies with their face is an appropriate contribution to the world.

I would like to believe that selfie etiquette – or a pinch of human decency – would inhibit a person from posing with a thumbs-up at a Holocaust memorial, or a full grin in front of a raging fire.

But alas, the selfie as a tool of insensitivity is just another form of self-aggrandizement, one more way for average individuals to insert themselves into moments of history and human tragedy.

One of the individuals featured on the Tumblr has since apologized, stating that the backlash "made me realize how much of an idiot I made myself look. I've had people messaging me and calling me stuff, all of which I obviously deserve." The owner of the Tumblr accepted his apology by blocking-out his face and blurring his Twitter handle. He is also now offering the other offending individuals an opportunity for contrition: "To all the other people whose photos appear here: If you'd like to speak to the viewers of this site, you're welcome to reach out. I'll post your words, and block out your face."

There are more than 41-million photos on Instagram with the hashtag "selfie." And fortunately for humankind, most of these images are innocuously dull, faces pleading for approval, #likeme, #wink, #happy.

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