Today’s Rant: Selfie Sticks

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Go to any museum, historic monument, picturesque landscape, and there’s one growing trend you’re bound to observe (besides millennials wearing rolled up skinny jeans) – selfie sticks.  

Some years ago if I were to rant about selfie sticks, someone could accuse me of being racist towards Asians.  But like most technology in our American society, the Asians have successfully (and regrettably) incorporated the self-serving device known as selfie sticks.  And today, people of all ages, races, and creeds have utilized this stick to achieve a new level of self-awareness.

As if our smartphone culture wasn’t isolationist enough, the selfie stick ensures that we no longer have to stop looking at our phones, even when we’re in the midst of 4,000 year old ruins.  And it’s super simple to use.  While in the midst of something gorgeous or priceless, take a second to stop texting or scrolling Facebook, open up the camera app, place your phone into your selfie stick, extend it like a Go-Go-Gadget arm, and take a picture using the Bluetooth functionality.  Then quickly post it to Instagram, and while ignoring the priceless works of art or magnificent vistas as you continue meandering through the museum or national park trail, check how many likes you get on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  

The selfie stick, also known as the plastic staff of narcissism, ensures that your social media audience sees your giant mellon eclipsing something really important and photo worthy.  I know, you want the world to know that you were there, because taking a picture of it and captioning it “I was here,” is just not proof enough.  

“Great photo of yourself with the Mona Lisa.”  But let’s state the obvious: if DaVinci wanted you in the picture, he would have painted you there.

There are really only two reasons why someone should ever use a selfie stick.  One is if you’re trying to take a picture of a place that’s hard to reach… like a hole where you think there might be a dangerous snake hiding, or over the edge of the volcano where your arm would get seared if you tried reaching over the crater.  If you have a fear of heights, the selfie stick could be used to capture that amazing shot without getting too close to the edge of the cliff.  Or if you’re  vertically challenged, you could raise your selfie stick to snap a picture above the heads of the crowd surrounding you.  In these cases, the camera should always be pointed away from you… because after all, the object that you’re trying to photograph isn’t you.  The only other reason to use the selfie stick is if you want to examine your backside to see if you have a hemorrhoid without the embarrassing task of asking someone else to examine it for you.  Other than that, you should never under any circumstance use a selfie stick for photography purposes.

On our most recent family vacation, everywhere we went, there were people coming up to us offering us “good price” for a selfie stick.  They’d keep repeating, “good price, good price,” as if the price would motivate me to purchase such an atrocity.  One person was so annoyingly persistent, that I briefly thought about buying one of his selfie sticks and breaking it in half in front of him to make a point.  

All of my family members knew how I felt about selfie sticks in no uncertain terms… except for my father , who apparently didn’t hear my ongoing rant.  So one day, while our family divided up to go explore Rome, my dad went on his own.  And I kid you not, he bought a selfie stick.  It turns out that while my extended family was zooming around the streets of the Vatican with their tour guide, they turned the corner and almost hit an old man standing in the middle of the street, using his selfie stick.  The tour guide quickly slammed on the brakes and exclaimed, “Who is this crazy man standing in the middle of the street?”  They took one look and realized it was my dad.  Yep, my dad almost died in Vatican City by a tour bus full of his own family members because he was using a selfie stick in the middle of a busy Italian street.  True story.   Let that be a lesson to you.

When we all returned from our excursions, my dad was excited to show us his pictures.  “Yep, Dad, there’s a picture of you. There’s another picture of you.  Oh, and check that out, there’s another picture of you.  Great pictures… of you.  Where were you again? The Vatican? I couldn’t tell because you were blocking the view.”  It’s kind of like when you’re a kid at a ballgame and a tall guy sits right in front of you, and the whole time you’re angling your head left and right to try and see the action.  Except a photo is stationary.  Once you block the shot, well, there’s no getting around it.

I understand that sometimes having a picture of yourself with others at a cool place is a great addition to your photo album.  Well there’s another strategy you could employ that we used to do back in the day.  Now this was many years ago, so my memory might be a little fuzzy, but we used to find someone nearby and ask, “Excuse me, would you be so kind to take a photo of us?”  And then we had to show the person the right button to push on the camera, and sometimes it was a bit of a hassle because the camera was in manual focus mode or the lens protector was still on.  But thanks to today’s technology, much of the world has a smartphone that autofocuses, so it’s as easy as click and shoot.  And bonus, you get to interact with strangers, and they might actually be nice and burst your stranger-danger mantra that we’ve ingrained into our society.  

Maybe you’re reading or listening to this, and you’ve been convinced that your selfie stick is just super uncool, and maybe you have the sudden urge to break it and throw it away, which is totally understandable.  But as someone concerned with the environment, throwing away your selfie stick just adds to our plastic waste.  So, here are some ways to convert your selfie stick into something more useful and cool.

  • Carry your telescoping selfie stick with you and have immediate access to a makeshift bat or golf club that could be used to hit small rocks or those spiky gum balls.

  • Bring your selfie stick to church or to a recital, and when your child drops his pen, silly putty, or whatever he’s using to keep himself occupied, and it falls precariously a row or two ahead, use your selfie stick to inconspicuously reach it.

  • Use your selfie stick as a grill tool to turn hot dogs without getting off your chair or standing too close to the hot grill.  Just be aware that the plastic phone holder at the end will probably melt.
  • For those of you not fond of carrying a gun, knife, or mace, a selfie stick can be used as a tool for self defense.  When a would-be attacker ambushes you, just whip out your selfie stick, and beat him in the face.  The telescoping length ensures you get a solid whipping action, causing immediate damage.  And because your selfie stick isn’t compromising your mobile device, you can use your free hand to hold your phone and record the event as it’s happening.

I’m sure you could come up with more uses for selfie sticks, so feel free to comment and add your own ideas.  But remember kids, just say no to selfie sticks and limit the use of selfies.  There’s a reason why Ansel Adams didn’t photograph his mug; he knew that his friends were more interested in seeing the beautiful landscapes than his ducky lips with a blurry background.  The places around us are so photo-worthy that they deserve their own spotlight without us photobombing them.  

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Hibbs is an ordinary man on the pursuit of freedom - from evil, from tyranny, from the mundane, and from neckties.
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