The selfie stick has been framed by my peers as a risible technology of which ownership is akin to the forfeiture of good taste. For the past year or so I kind of agreed. I've been at best disinterested and at worst disgusted by what seemed to be a over-priced, vanity-promoting retractable camera mount. But a holiday trip to Disneyland convinced me the selfie stick deserves respect.
If you've traveled in the past two years, you probably noticed the surging popularity of obtrusive photography: ginormous tablets and smartphones that hover in the air like glowing balloons, blocking the view of beautiful landscapes and dirtying the frame of family photos. They're not all bad, of course. Phones and tablets with improved cameras have made it possible for more people to become amateur photographers. However, their best features for their owner can also be their most frustrating for the rest of us: The large, glowing screens can spoil a sunset. Their flat, long shape makes them difficult to handle, adding time to every shot. Their lengthy battery and deep storage inspires some budding photogs to keep the gizmo out of pocket and in the air for minutes or even hours. Last Fourth of July, I watched New York's fireworks through the screens of strangers' dueling iPad Minis.
The floating screens won't go away, nor should they, but they have been and, I predict, will further be diminished by the continuing rise of the selfie stick. I'm so grateful.
The selfie stick is an old-fashioned solution for modern photography
Disneyland was infected with selfie stick families, some of whom I spotted removing the plastic wrapping at the front gate. The selfie stick is the opposite of the tablet camera. With a GoPro mounted at its end, the device is unobtrusive and dimly lit, disappearing deftly during the nighttime parade. Even with a smartphone attached, the stick held the device above the crowds, giving it a better angle and everyone else a clearer view.
And that's just the stick's application for general photography. For selfies, the tool made it easier for entire families to fit into photographs together. I love how something so simple as a retractable rod takes a crude shot meant for one or two people and expands and improves upon its potential.
Plus, I like the vanity of the selfie. For too long I was snobbish about the idea of taking and editing pictures of yourself, but damn it I love that people can feel good about how they look. We should all be so happy! If the selfie stick makes it easier get shots that make us look good in this shirt or those jeans or that skirt then more selfie sticks please.
At the theme park I saw plenty of families feud over how they would fit in an iPad selfie. And twice I saw a parent, struggling to get the right image, drop their phone on the cement with a loud crack, followed by a stream of expletives and blame. But families with selfie sticks: mostly smiles, an exemplary feat for any family in the holidays.
The tide is changing in favor of the selfie stick. On Medium, Lindsey Weber elegantly defends the selfie stick better than I have. And The Daily Dot has a charming piece on dads getting selfie sticks for Christmas, accompanied with adorable evidence.
Is it a dumb device? If anything, it's an obvious one. Our culture often celebrates technology we're unsure why we need or how we'll use it, but the selfie stick modestly solves a simple problem with a little bit of elbow grease. It feels like something Mom or Dad would make, which is why I suspect the instinct is to laugh. But Mom and Dad are often both totally uncool and totally right. The selfie stick is both those things. Now that's worth celebrating.