When Instagram Hashtags lead to dangerous, or even deadly consequences

This week Paris civil authorites announced the end of an instagram era. For the past few years, thousands of tourists and lovers have been leaving locks on Paris bridges, particularly the Pont de Arts, in a symbol of lasting love.

Over 59 thousand instagram images have documented this phenemon, using the hashtag #LoveLocks one of several hashtags used to document the bridge. The hashtagged images have added to the fervor of this fad. From the Kardashians to my own clan, fans of the Bridge of Locks have flocked to Paris to participate in this pop up tradition. It’s wasn’t enough to merely see the sight. In order to do the Bridge of Locks properly (and keep the trend going), enthusiasts were driven to take a photo and document it publicly. Part of the experience was being a part of the instagram trend.
A snapshot of the #LoveLocks Instagram photos showing the bridge of locks in Paris, prior to it being disassembled

On Monday of this week, that tradition is coming to an end.

Part of the reason is that the locks present a danger to the structural integrity of the bridge. Despite city attempts to remove the locks regularly, a section of the fencing on the Pont des Arts collapsed last year, causing concern about safety. The city, which has long considered the locks to be an eyesore, plans to replace the lock-friendly chain link fencing with lock proof plexiglass.

No doubt, the masses will move on. Australian authorities are expressing concern that the next hotspot for lovers seeking Instagram fame could quite possibly be #weddingcakerock, a natural wonder of the Australian coastline that’s been getting a lot of attention from thrillseeking Instagram adventurers in the past few months.

A Snapshot of the #WeddingCakeRock Hashtag on instagram - this tag is drawing tourists who are willing to risk it all to get a great shot

Not all the press is good. A French tourist recently fell to his death after attempting to take a selfie perched on this precarious cliff that resembles a slice of wedding cake. This has prompted Australian authorities issue public warnings about the practice. In addition to safety, officials are worried about the environmental impact of tourists thronging to the remote location in search of that perfect shot.

Snapping an #extremeselfie has been a popular activity for instagram thrill/fame seekers for at least a couple of years, with selfies snapped during skydives, with exotic wildlife, while cliffdiving, atop skyscrapers and national monuments and even a selfie from space.

The hashtag #ExtremeSelfie has led thousands of risk takers to document themselves doing crazy things

Would people be taking these sort of risks if the hashtags didn’t exist? Possibly. But the prevalence of these hashtags may be accelerating the speed and spread of potentially harmful fads.

What can be done about dangerous hashtag and Instagram trends? At least one theme park has taken a stand. In order to discourage #extremeselfies and risky photo taking behavior, both Disneyworld and Disneyland (one of the most instagrammed spots in the world) have both recently adopted a no selfie stick policy. You will see signs posted in both parks advising tourists to keep it safe and sensible.


Photo credit @DininginDisney