Christmas Day, 2014. If you are a regular user of social media, it’s highly likely that you logged in to see numerous photos of your friends, sitting round the table with their family. At first glance, it’s nothing more than a heartwarming photo of a family about to tuck into turkey, but then you notice something. Your mate’s sitting there with their arm outstretched, gripping onto a metal stick with their smartphone attached to the end. The ‘selfie stick’.
Before anyone thinks ‘well what’s wrong with that?’, the answer is: nothing, really. I’ll state straight away that my problem lies not with selfie sticks, but how they’re used. As a method to take a memorable photo with your loved ones, no one can deny that they’re pretty useful. But what about when you’re walking down the street and you see some girl dolled up to the nines, her selfie stick at the ready as she takes photo after pouting photo of herself. What about when you go to a concert or festival, and you can’t see the stage for the sea of selfie sticks and iPads? And most sickening of all, what about those who take selfies in places like Auschwitz, or outside cafes in Sydney that are under siege? To me, and I’m sure to many others, the selfie stick is the latest symbol of the rising narcissism within modern society.
There have been a slew of articles recently that have documented the banning of selfie sticks at football grounds and music festivals such as Parklife. And a quick read through the comments underneath them reveals that, far from disagreeing with the new rule, the majority of people eagerly applaud the decision. Reasons ranged from the mild: ‘They are a bit of a nuisance to those trying to see the stage’, to the frenzied: ‘Anyone who owns a selfie stick should be banned from society altogether’. Therefore, despite the many people who use them, I’m clearly not the only one who is already sick of the sight of them. Recently, a mate and I went to see Lily Allen in Birmingham, and we couldn’t help noticing how many people had their phones and sticks out. Instead of living in the moment and enjoying the concert they’d paid to see, they were standing there alone or with their friends, some even with their backs to the stage, taking endless photos of themselves pouting into the camera. It just seemed a bit, well, sad.
I know some people reading this will think that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, and will wonder why I’m getting so wound up about a stick. But when you see young kids spending their days taking photos of themselves, or preening adults using them to capture that perfect self-image (or hundreds), it’s difficult to see these new creations as anything more than a tool for the self-obsessed. The selfie stick, to be totally honest, is simply the nail in the coffin in an increasingly narcissistic world.