Do you remember the most mortifying moment of your life? Mine was today. I took a selfie. And no, I wasn’t simply snapping a “duck face” quickie with my iPhone. I was using a “selfie stick,” a claw-like, expanding wand reminiscent of a trash-picker that’s been modified to hold an iPhone at the end. I set the timer, gripped the subway pole, balanced the stick, almost toppled onto an exhausted mother, and smiled for the camera. Despite the stares, and practically taking out a fellow commuter, I actually looked halfway decent in the final product. There was significantly less of the facial-feature skewing that usually occurs with a regular selfie.
The selfie stick may seem solely for the extremely self-involved, but before you point fingers, or sticks, I’m not the only one using it. Look up #selfiestick onInstagram and almost 40,000 results of beaming couples and families holding the device appear. Its benefits are clear: There are more variation of angles, and more opportunities to fit people into a shot. Can you imagine what the epic Oscar selfie would have looked like with a selfie stick? The possibilities are endless.
Still, even if the selfie stick is a definite upgrade from a normal selfie method, is it acceptable to use? The reactions seem to be a mix of hate and curiosity: A coworker called the four-foot metal device the “measuring stick of narcissism;” my friend asked, “are you joking?” and two backpacking travelers inquired where they could buy one. The device even reared its retractable head during last New York Fashion Week, reaching far over rows of showgoers, like some sort of creepy robotic selfie drone. Within a few days, blogs had deemed it a “fashion no.”
Despite the criticism, there are still selfie stick supporters. DJ Hannah Bronfman saw the self-portrait tool at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2014. “It should be praised!” said Bronfman, who uses the PicStick for her selfie moments. “Selfie sticks aren’t used just for selfies—or at least they won’t be. For instance, the height you get from a selfie stick would be ideal for recording concert footage.” And as for getting odd stares while using their selfie stick? “In the U.S. for sure. Either weird looks, or ‘NO WAY!’” said Bronfman’s boyfriend, Brendan Fallis. “When we’re in Asia, we’re just another couple taking a selfie on a stick.”
I cajoled a colleague into joining me (sometimes she pressed the capture button for me) and continued my test drive on the streets of New York. My first stop was Shake Shack, where tourists took photos of me taking photos of myself (how #meta!) and one enthusiastic child photo-bombed half of my photos. Within 20 minutes, six people approached me and asked where I had bought it. Later in the day, I trotted over to Times Square and snapped some with the costumed characters, and a crowd of people quickly gathered—also taking photos of me taking a photo of myself. The stick even perfectly captured my grimacing expression when Elmo grabbed my waist, letting his hand linger there for well over a minute. My last stop was Bryant Park, where I took full body shots while rolling in the grass, and then to an arts and crafts pop-up, where I took photos of myself coloring. In a way, I felt as if I had a photographer friend chronicling all of my banal activities, yet in reality, I was just one lonely person, taking photos of myself. “It’s the ‘pretend I have friends stick!’” I announced to nobody in particular.
So, is the selfie stick going to be a staple accessory in the next few months? It’s definitely catching on, and if the passerby I met weren’t just openly mocking me, its popularity is growing. But if you’re going to use it, be prepared for the inevitable stares and comments, though if you’re already an avid selfie-taker, you’re probably not going to care about carrying a massive metal pole around too. As for me, I probably won’t use it ever again. At least not in public. After all, it does make for a great picture.