EgyptAir ‘selfie’ Briton Ben Innes took inappropriate photo with hijacker due to ‘pure narcissism’

A leading psychologist says incident is damning example of modern-day social media culture

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The Independent Online

A grinning British hostage who posed for a photograph with the EgyptAir hijacker has been described as the latest victim of “narcissistic” social media culture.

Ben Innes, 26, spoke on Tuesday night about his motives for walking up to the front of the hijacked plane after it landed in Cyprus and asking for a photo with the apparent suicide bomber, admitting he’s “not sure why I did it”.

The photo had begun circulating on social media before the hostage situation was over, suggesting Mr Innes began sharing it before he was even off the plane.

And the image, in which the hijacker’s fake bomb vest is clearly visible, has sparked a mix of reactions ranging from amusement to condemnation.

Asking what drove Mr Innes to do it, Cambridge University psychology lecturer Dr Terry Apter suggested it may have been the result of “pure narcissism”.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme on Wednesday, Dr Apter said in modern culture people go into “auto mode” when a camera is pointed at them and “you are expected to smile” – even when marking something terrifying or disturbing.

Dr Apter said: “We've always wanted to mark our presence and participation in historical events – what is new is the opportunity social media offers in immediately broadcasting this to the world. This opportunity can make us really really stupid.

“Because social media is so new and so crude compared to the highly sophisticated ways we've evolved to communicate with each other, where we pick up clues or cues about… whether our actions are inappropriate,” she said.

“We are always monitoring other people's responses, but we can't do that on social media so there's just this pure narcissistic spurt. That allows us to be so inappropriate…”

Mr Innes has said he asked for the photo after the plane, carrying 55 passengers, was just half an hour into its six-hour ordeal sat at Larnaca airport.

He told the Sun: “I thought, why not? If he blows us all up it won’t matter anyway.”