Chernobyl selfies are as hot as the HBO series now—and almost as radioactive

By Joe Berkowitz

It’s hard to tell which ingredients might transform a location into this year’s must-see travel destination. Even with that unpredictability in mind, though, the ascension of Chernobyl to the jet set upper echelon is baffling.

One might think an important lesson of HBO’s megahit limited series Chernobyl would be, “Maybe don’t go to Chernobyl?” but that has definitely not turned out to be the case. Tourism is apparently way up this year, and the influencers are influencing about it.

Nothing about the HBO series Chernobyl particularly screams, “Let’s start pricing out Airbnbs.” The show did, however, spread word about the disaster’s notoriety among a generation that may have grown up only vaguely having heard about it. Now, the uninitiated know of this spooky place that everyone in the world has heard of and is afraid of, and features a king’s ransom of abandoned parks as photo ops. To those who thrive on (or a make a living from) finding new ways to generate likes, the threat of latent radioactive residue may seem tame compared with the possibility of leaving a nuclear reactor’s worth of Instagram gold on the table.

Obviously, not everybody is crazy about this idea. Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin vented on Twitter his displeasure with some of the photos he’s seen coming out of the Zone of Exclusion. (Probably the thong one, specifically.)

Fair point! It’s not exactly an honorarium to strike a seductive pose on The Bridge of Death. In fact, it’s totally in keeping with the era that brought us Funeral Selfies as a genre. Hell, we’ve already survived an Auschwitz Selfies conversation this year.


However, as Atlantic’s tech writer Taylor Lorenz points out, influencer-style selfies may just be the way this generation comports itself now. People do it in Chernobyl because they would do it anywhere, and for any number of reasons, from grief and awe to straight-up thirst for likes. Chernobyl selfies won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but through the lens of 2019 social media, it seems as natural an outcome as the urge in previous generations to stay far the hell away from that whole area altogether.



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