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Want the perfect smiley selfie? Carry a big silver stick

The importance of the selfie in establishing self-worth is underlined by those who choose to carry with them something called a Selfie Stick. Seeing one in real life is sobering.

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The Selfie Stick is something so painfully real and so very, very modern. Perhaps too modern? Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It was early Saturday evening in San Francisco's Union Square.

I was taking a rest, page 147 of my latest Italian detective (Commissario Soneri, thank you for asking) in my hand. I was looking forward to walking in, reservation-free, to another restaurant that would, three hours later, have reservations about having let me in.

Suddenly two women wafted into the square. One was wielding a long silver stick. I was fairly sure I knew neither of them. I was fairly sure they weren't seeking me out to exact revenge for some transgression, forgotten by me.

I was certain when I saw what was at the end of the stick: a white cell phone.

It quickly became clear what this stick was: a new, intellectually satisfying way to take perfect selfies without struggle.

The womens' excitement filled the air and the eyes of everyone around. For they pointed the besticked camera this way and that, trying to find the perfect angle for, presumably, the perfect number of Instagram likes.

I wanted to ask them whether they had recently suffered a personal trauma, or at least some grave social media catastrophe.

Sadly, they were almost immediately accosted by other women desperate to know where they had bought this stick and how much it had cost.

The selfie ladies shuffled to different corners of the square. Were they seeking the light? Or had that already permanently eluded them?

They turned the stick to portrait and landscape, the port and starboard of the contemporary social ship. Holding the stick in one hand gave the stick-owner time to correct her hair, perfect her smile and keep a steady countenance.

I wondered, for a moment, whether the stick would magically turn into an umbrella if it rained. I feared, though, that it had just one purpose: to make selfies as glorious as they could be.

Of course, everyone around was almost as fascinated by their photography as they were. We all took pictures of women taking pictures of themselves. How else could we tell our friends about what we'd just seen? This was better than seeing Ellen and her fellow stars. This was real people attempting to perfect a contemporary art form, the art form being their own self-image.

You'll tell me that quite a few tourists travel with camera attachments, so that their movies and photographs will enjoy a steady excellence.

But this gadget doesn't exist to help you photograph your world. It exists to help you photograph you.

Would Prada soon be making its own version, with various chilly-colored designs? Would people soon be owning a multitude of these things, to match their purses, their murses or their nurse outfits?

When I got home, I discovered that these things are called Selfie Sticks. There are 71 pages of them on Amazon. They retail for anything from $10 to quite a lot more.

And why not? More than ever, our pictures are our whole selves. Business or pleasure.

To get anyone to pay attention and give us what we want, our self-images on LinkedIn and OK Cupid first have to be just so. People will only be our friends if we can make our self-directed lives seem exciting on Facebook.

Behold the modern route to success: Smile sweetly and carry a big silver stick.

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And look, it works portrait as well as landscape. What an invention. Perhaps for any occasion. Chris Matyszczyk/CNET