Today I took a bunch of pictures of my daughter and me at a color run. In order to protect our eyes from the falling bright-hued powder, we wore sunglasses. They happened to be mirrored. In every little sunglass mirror? A reflection of my arm as I took the selfies.
Selfies are a phenomenon virtually unknown to me in my youth but well suited for the social media generation. I’m not ashamed to admit that I absolutely love them. I can quickly check make-up when a mirror isn’t available, catch a snap of an old friend and me at dinner and have it up on Facebook within a minute or reassure myself that I’m not getting wrinkles (or at least, not too many too quickly). I have taken to the selfie craze almost as well as the young ‘uns who don’t remember a time without them.
So it was with fascination that I first saw the contraption last year at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco… a camera at the end of a long stick, like one leg of a tripod. What could it be? I asked my friends. A selfie stick, I found out. A way to take a picture but not have to stick your arm out. Genius.
I wanted one, but was smart enough to understand that they soon would be branded with derision as the mark of a truly self-absorbed twit. And, like clockwork, they were. Comedians made jokes. Venues started banning them, from the Coliseum in Rome to the Palace of Versailles to the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And, if I may allow myself an indecorous moment, it occurred to me that the name selfie stick might be better suited as the moniker for the vibrating toy that women sometimes use in their private moments (I even considered buying the domain name and starting a mail order business, but cooler heads convinced me that I’d get a ton of mistaken traffic and irate letters from the mothers of pre-teen girls).
But I digress. My point here: the selfie stick is suffering from a branding problem.
The ingenious little gadgets were banned at Disney theme parks when Disney California Adventure’s California Screamin’ roller coaster had to be stopped mid-ride when someone pulled out a selfie stick. In the middle of a roller coaster ride, people. Which leads me to my conclusion: selfie sticks are not the problem. They are a clever solution to an issue: the limited range of the human arm. They’re like any tool: only as good as the person operating them. It’s not the sticks that are the problem. It’s the people who think it’s a good idea to pull them out on a roller coaster or in tight quarters where they might whack a passerby on the head. If we could outlaw a lack of common sense, we’d do a lot better than in outlawing selfie sticks.
Let’s be real: selfies are here to stay. We’re vain and they’re convenient. Apple, here’s what we need in the iPhone 7: the selfie mode, a setting that automatically pans out so your face isn’t so ridiculously close to the screen. Then, the selfie stick can go the way of the chia pet. After that, I know just what we can re-brand that phrase to mean.