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Selfie sticks: Have they gone too far?

A walk down a sunny November street turns into an avoidance maneuver, as four people with a very long stick decide to film themselves. Is this the future of the promenade?

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

A man on the street over the weekend, ready to extend his stick in an instant. Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I was assaulted on the street one fine weekend afternoon not so long ago.

The subsequent pain was limited to my eyes and the flimsy cables that connect them to my feelings.

Still, recovery has been slow.

I was ambling, you see, along the main drag of my little California town when I was confronted by four menacing individuals. The man in front was holding a large stick in his right hand and his cell phone in his left.

He wasn't looking where he was going. He was staring down at his phone.

I began to step aside, as this stick was aimed squarely at my forehead. It was then that I noticed a small video camera attached to it.

I also noticed that his lady friend and the couple behind were all attempting to walk while making the sorts of faces you might see at a children's party -- when the children have been fed tequila and pot.

None of them was looking where they were going. Three were staring into the video camera, gurning, while the stick-holder continued staring at his phone.

I stopped, stood against a wall and stared as they walked on, oblivious.

What would the video they captured have added to their day? Or would it have merely added to their personal reputations when they posted it on Facebook or AreYouSmarterThanADolt.com?

For you see they were wielding a selfie stick -- for that is what such contraptions are called -- and selfie sticks are trending in the real world. You slide your phone or camera into one end. Then you extend your stick to get a better angle on yourself. You control them through a Bluetooth wireless remote.

I first encountered one in San Francisco's Union Square in September when two girls were extending their stick in order to expand their self-image. These ladies were, at least, polite. When people came up to them to ask about their new contraption of attraction, they sweetly explained how it worked.

The gruesome foursome I encountered over the weekend were, however, another matter. Filming themselves took precedence over anything and anyone. The street was their set, the stick was their boom, the stick-holder their cameraman and the acting their ticket to some sort of instant joy or fame.

Are we really heading toward a future in which everyone will wander down the street with a protruding stick, like New Yorkers in a windy rainstorm, jutting their umbrellas in an act of both frustration and aggression?

Perhaps this is merely an, um, extension of where we've all been heading for some time. We exist to perform for social media, to be "liked" and envied. We must do it all the time. The virtual world never stops and it spins faster than the real one. Selfie sticks make the process easier and the result more fetching.

We need to record every moment of our lives because, in some glistening future when we're 120 and still doddering around, we'll have all day to relive those every moments.

"Wasn't that so cool when we walked down the street making those stupid faces?" we'll mutter, as we look at the video for the hundredth time. And we'll smile wistfully, as our personal robot pats us, wipes our dribbling lips and whispers: "There, there."

I carried on down the street, wondering whether I'd let the true meaning of fun pass me by. Did I not realize that without a selfie stick, I couldn't really be myself -- or at least appear to be myself?

I tiptoed around the tourists, trying to distract my mind. I pondered why anyone would buy T-shirt that has a picture of a beer and the motto: "I love blondes." We have those kinds of stores where I live.

Then I saw at least three other people with selfie sticks. Some had them retracted, but with cell phone already attached, in immediate expectation of a memorable expression plastering their faces.

Others stood in the middle of the street, their sticks at full mast, their faces being rapidly adjusted.

I was there.


You know, there, where I made that funny face.