My strong dislike of "selfies" is no secret (especially since I've blogged about here and here and here); I find them to be a natural consequence of a narcissistic and ego-centric society. As I've written previously:
To my mind, the prominence of the selfie indicates, in a way perhaps more clearly than any other, the great ego-centrism of our own day. It says: "Look at me! Why are you looking elsewhere?! Pay attention to me!" It is, I think, a consequence of the desire today to be famous; not for having actually done something worthwhile or important, but simply for the sake of being famous. The beautiful things all around me, whether of nature or of man, the other people around me, why would you want to look at any of that or at them?
At the same time, the selfie demonstrates the great disconnectedness of modern people. It was not that long ago that a person would easily stop a passerby and ask him or her to take a picture. Living now in a city filled with tourists - especially this week - lots of selfies are taken (even of groups) every day and when I offer to take a picture for a person or group so that the picture will actually be decent (if not good), people seem quite surprised that I would trouble myself with them. One wonders what happened to living in a society. Sometimes it seems we are all simply hermits wandering about each other.
Imagine my delight, then, when I learned that museums across the United States of America are banning visitors from making use of the so-called "selfie stick," a pole that attaches to a camera to allow the user to take a picture of himself from a distance (while looking foolish, friendless, and anti-social in the process).
Why the ban? It's largely because those who take selfies - especially with the selfie stick - are generally oblivious to the people and things around them:
Art museums have watched this development nervously, fearing damage to their collections or to visitors, as users swing their sticks with abandon. Now they are taking action. One by one, museums across the United States have been imposing bans on using selfie sticks for photographs inside galleries (adding them to existing rules on umbrellas, backpacks, tripods and monopods), yet another example of how controlling overcrowding has become part of the museum mission.
“From now on, you will be asked quietly to put it away,” said Sree Sreenivasan, the chief digital officer at the Met. “It’s one thing to take a picture at arm’s length, but when it is three times arm’s length, you are invading someone else’s personal space.”The personal space of other visitors is just one problem. The artwork is another. “We do not want to have to put all the art under glass,” said Deborah Ziska, the chief of public information at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, which has been quietly enforcing a ban on selfie sticks but is in the process of adding it formally to its printed guidelines for visitors.Last but not least is the threat to the camera operator, intent on capturing the perfect shot and oblivious to the surroundings. “If people are not paying attention in the Temple of Dendur, they can end up in the water with the crocodile sculpture,” Mr. Sreenivasan said. “We have so many balconies you could fall from, and stairs you can trip on.”
I, for one, applaud this move and would encourage the general banning of selfie sticks across civil society, but I've been accidentally assaulted by them in the streets of Rome on a few occasions.
I can think of only one good use for a selfie stick, which does not in any way involve the taking of a selfie. A few weeks ago I was taking pictures of the Arch of Constantine, which is considerably taller than I am, and thought a selfie stick might be useful for taking pictures of things above your head. But since you wouldn't be able to see what you were taking a picture of, they wouldn't actually be all that helpful.