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Warning to Aussies over Instagram 'selfie phenomenon'

Selfie-seekers heading to Australia's most popular Instagram spots are being warned their lives are not worth a handful of likes on social media.

It comes as researchers from the University of NSW were handed a landmark grant to work with Instagram to provide adequate safety warnings on the platform.

UNSW's Dr Amy Peden, an injury prevention researcher at the School of Population Health, says a selfie phenomenon coinciding with social media's growing role in everyday life has led to an increased chance of injury and death.

"People are often striving for the best image and visit picturesque but potentially isolated and risky locations to achieve the perfect shot," Dr Peden said.

Those seeking the perfect shot are often endangering their lives near cliffs, water and traffic, she warned.

"Trying to capture the best image can mean people are temporarily distracted or have a momentary lack of self-awareness meaning they can be injured or killed," Dr Peden said.

"There are many tragic cases of this from Australia and indeed around the world."

Wedding Cake rock in the Royal National Park is one location where visitors often risk their safety. Source: Instagram
Wedding Cake rock in the Royal National Park is one location where visitors often risk their safety. Source: Instagram

In January last year, a British backpacker fell to her death while reportedly taking a photo at Sydney's Diamond Bay.

And in December last year, a 38-year-old woman died after falling while trying to get the “ultimate” photo at Victoria's Boroka Lookout made popular on social media.

'Nobody thinks it will happen to them,' expert warns

Dr Peden says more needs to be done by Instagram to raise awareness of the dangers at popular selfie spots in a way Covid content comes with a warning for example with current warnings in place are proving inadequate.

Wedding Cake Rock in the Royal National Park is one location where authorities have struggled to deter visitors from breaching safety barriers despite signage.

Dr Peden identified the nearby Figure Eight Pools as another location where Instagrammers underestimate the the risk posed.

"Obviously, nobody expects this will happen to them, but tragedy can occur in an instant. If there are warning signs or fences, they are there for a reason," she said.

"If you are going to visit a potentially risky location, do your research. If it’s a coastal location, understand the impact of the tide and when it is a safe time to visit and how long the window of safety will last."

She says she's hopeful their work in support of Instagram will allow them to offer evidence-based solutions to "this very modern problem".

"Simply getting some water safety information in front of people before or while they are at the location through hashtags and location information on social media may make all the difference.”

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