I'm by no means a stickler for the selfie stick. Novelty inventions like it are great representations for our society's present culture. Like the fanny-pack.
Along with the DIY movement, it's only natural that we have the selfie stick, a pole with a camera/phone mount that enables one person to capture their own self-portrait. How perfectly clever. It's a fun addition to parties and a visually gripping tool for videos. But when it comes to travel, it's best to leave them at home.
There is only one reason why I refuse to travel with a selfie stick:
it's a filter.
When you travel, the world around you deserves a certain level of attention and courtesy. Selfie sticks deter us from fulfilling these. They are a safety hazard in crowded areas. But most importantly, they also make us less involved with our surroundings.
Consider, you are a traveler ten years before today. You are traveling solo or with a significant other and a moment arises that you wish to capture on photo. The world has yet to perfect the front-face camera. You don’t have a tripod, and if you do, you do not have a camera timer. What do you do? More chances than not, you will probably resort to asking a complete but friendly stranger to take the picture for you.
You engage in the rush of decision-making—who will be the chosen lucky? There's that sometimes awkward but necessary exchange of greetings and quick instructions for the technologically challenged. This might be followed by you holding your pose and smile a moment longer as your stranger familiarizes themselves with your gadget. Click. Click. Click. They compliment you on your camera as you scroll through the files. All this culminates in that final moment of approval when you see the photos for the first time. How delightfully old-fashioned!
In the past, this was the only choice if you were traveling alone. Most wonderfully, if you found yourself with this problem in a completely foreign land, you'd probably need to ask in the local dialect. It’s the only appropriate way.
Nowadays, it is easily done with an outstretched arm. The only sound to be heard is the cold click of a button followed by a silent pause as you consider its social media value.
The process of reaching out to another human being is all at once replaced by a mechanized contraption. Photo-taking in a foreign country can now easily be done with minimal interaction (as if traveling, in general, wasn't already). No ciao, pro favor or danke needed. What a shame.
There are enough filters we travelers are often subject to. Certain accommodations, restaurants, tours, and other places all offer forms of filter. Every place in the world should be experienced without anything clouding our perspectives. Why add another?
As travelers we should be willing to dabble in local discourse. We should accept that we might look a little silly or stumble on a few words. I assure you, it's not in vain.
Asking a friendly face to snap a photo of you takes seconds of your time, and the complete exchange, from start to finish, takes mere minutes. The possibilities from there, though, are endless. It might surprise you what results from this simple action. You can strike up a conversation, get dining suggestions, and even make a new friend.
For some who find difficulty breaking the ice to ask for help, it's a moment begging to be taken advantage of. We must remember, the other person might just be as lost as we are. Of course, there is also the possibility that they might be jerks, the type you hope to never encounter again on any of your trips. Then there's that great chance they are wonderful individuals who will add value to your experience. That's worth it, isn't it?
But these opportunities are instantly dissolved with that pesky pole. It allows people to forget that another human can help us.
Sightseeing might be do-it-yourself. But travel is not a solo sport. Travel involves conversations and a healthy dose of curiosity. You can't learn or make connections on observation alone. Travel thrives with personal interactions just as much as it needs personal reflections. With that said, selfie sticks are a great companion for the tourist for its overall convenience. For the traveler, they are just another reason to be uninvolved.
This is not say that travel selfies are an absolute abomination. An occasional selfie produced with an outstretched arm adds fun variety to your collection of photos. They should not, however, make it up entirely.
In the end, I prefer personal connections. Not skillfully adept with a camera lens, I've learned to appreciate moments for more than their Kodak value. How about you?