Selfie Stick Mania

What Technology Teaches Us about Ourselves

Posted Apr 01, 2015

Source: Photo: iStock

In the 1600’s Amsterdam had its tulip craze. In the 1970s it was the pet rock. More recently we’ve had Beanie Babies, Gigapets, Angry Birds, 50 Shades of Grey and Selfies.  It never ceases to amaze how the human species runs in groups.

It’s a way to take a picture of you with a friend, or take in a public space, without the need to ask a passerby to help out. What used to be a sweet neighborly experience will now be a thing of the past.

Want a great shot of the two of you?  No problem. No awkward ask. Just fix our smart phone to a Selfie stick, and you’re in business.

Selfie Sticks & Public Places:

You bump into this gadget everywhere. At a mall, the beach, at an event, on the streets of Manhattan. In the last 24 hours, walking casually through life, I've bumped up against this gadget whenever I stopped for a moment. Something may be up. And, at least in the Northeast, the Tulips will soon be in bloom.  

Now, there’s no need to ask a stranger to take a picture. We can do it ourselves.  

What pornography probably does to sexual intimacy, the Selfie stick does to asking people to help out in a pinch. Who needs neighbors when I can do it myself. (You can critique me for making a big deal out of nothing; guilty as charged.)

An Intrusive Technology:

Although Selfie sticks have become extremely popular in the past year, they’re becoming widely seen as intrusive. Music festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooz have already taken measures to ban the devices, with the former festival dismissing them as “narcissistics” on a list of prohibited items.

Who wants hundreds of poles blocking your view at some concert?  Some well known museums have also banned Selfie sticks to protect exhibits on display and to ensure the safety of visitors.

Wayne Fromm, creator of the Quik Pod and the first to patent the Selfie stick, said he understood the decision for museums and festivals to ban the device, and that he never intended for the stick to be used in busy, public places. Yet, another Selfie stick entrepreneur, Jacqueline Verdier, CEO of Selfie on a Stick, believes the festivals are going to far by banning the device and the stick can be used safely.

So, what’s the problem?

Bowling Alone vs Bowling Together:

If you cannot take a picture of yourself, or one with your boyfriend or child without asking your neighbor, friend or passerby to help out, we are moving ever more quickly to a world in which we don't need anyone, and the social matrix slowly dissipates

This is Robert Putnam’s thesis in Bowling Alone. And if we don’t need others, what how does it affect our commitment to people, and even our need to distinguish between right and wrong? Relationships are the social matrix of our world. What happens to us if we never need a stranger? Why should we care about each other?

So, I would like to ask the great App Makers to consider a new app. Maybe a new habit will emerge. Instead of the Selfie…consider the Other-ie.

Perhaps we will find a way to text somebody within a 50 yard radius. That text can be only neutral and ask for a common courtesy. It is not for sexual excitement, nor for marketing and certainly not for telling someone off.

Call it the “Could You Please” App.

People sign up, they are routinely vetted for inappropriate behavior and removed.   The whole notion is that I would be willing to listen to a request from a stranger for a simple and safe action that can be a difference maker in the moment. The App will provide a new fad – caring about people that you don’t know because we all live here together.

It’ll be a new piece of the social matrix.

  • Would you open the door for me?
  • Could you hold the package for me - I'm overloaded?
  • Can you take a picture of me with my girlfriend?
  • I am not great at changing tires. Can you help out?
  • It’s my son’s birthday; can everyone in the restaurant sing with us?

It's time for the technology to bring us back together again.

Now it’s up to some young geniuses to work this out.



Research Assistant, Gabriel Banschick

For more:

The Intelligent Divorce - Taking Care of Your Children (Kindle)

The Intelligent Divorce - Taking Care of Your Children (Amazon)

The Intelligent Divorce - Taking Care of Yourself (Kindle)

The Intelligent Divorce - Taking Care of Yourself (Amazon) 

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* Thanks to Gabriel Banschick for helping to research and develop this piece.