A day after The New York Times published an article putting selfie stick users to shame, I found myself eyeing one behind the counter of my local drugstore (next to the cigarettes), wondering whether people would think I was a narcissist, a tourist, or both, if I bought one.
My father, who recently discovered selfies, skirted around the checkout line to ask for a closer look. “This isn’t for me, it’s for my daughter -- she’s over there,” he made a point of telling the cashier. So much for trying to pretend it was my dad who wanted the contraption. Instead I just blushed as the cashier said, “Enjoy that selfie stick,” with a vague air of pity.
To commemorate the occasion (and perhaps to embarrass my father for good measure) I made us pose in front of the store using my new Inspector Gadget arm. After fiddling with the settings for what felt like hours in the parking lot, I would say we look sufficiently goofy.
Why would I subject my father and myself to the public scrutiny associated with purchasing and using a selfie stick? Because I recently discovered that my close friend is a selfie stick owner -- a fact she reluctantly revealed to me. Which made me wonder how many other people in my life are hiding selfie sticks like dirty little secrets.
Probably a few more after Kate Murphy wrote in the aforementioned New York Times article, “Much of the research on selfies reveals that (surprise!) people who take a lot of them tend to have narcissistic, psychopathic and Machiavellian personality traits -- which may explain why they are oblivious when they bonk you on the head.”
The notion that selfies can foster not only psychological but also bodily harm increases as more locations ban selfie sticks, including Six Flags, Disney theme parks and the Vatican. Non-users and institutions see obliviousness quickly turning to aggression as these telescoping sticks become potential battering batons.
More than anything, a selfie stick is just a gangly low-tech marker of a pervasive high-tech problem. We all try in our own way to present the best version of ourselves online, whether that means taking no selfies or all the selfies. It’s all absurdity, as this College Humor video shows, with or without a stick.
But as canibringmyselfiestick.com will tell you, there are still plenty of places where the bold can extend their telescoping devices. Four months into hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, 23-year-old Emily Bays says many hikers bring converters to turn their trekking poles into selfie sticks. At least in the wilderness there are fewer people to judge you, or maybe just fewer people to take your picture.
One of the major selling points of the selfie stick is that it allows the user to fit more people in their photograph. I would like to believe this proves that users would prefer to take their pictures with other people. So if you own a selfie stick, I'm here to tell you that we can still be friends and we should totally take a picture together -- I'm looking at you Obama.