Selfie Sticks in My Craw
I just want to make it clear, and I want there to be no misunderstandings. I don't wish my words to be taken out of context or misinterpreted, so here it is; Selfie Sticks, I loathe them. For me, they are one of the many things that's wrong with modern travel. Not only do I despise them with all my heart, I don't even understand them. I don't mean this as in "I don't like Ulysses by James Joyce because I don't understand it" kind of way, I mean that I just don't understand the need for them. I don't get why any place you've chosen to spend your hard earned cash on visiting, is improved by having an insurmountable number of photographs of the taker standing in front of said chosen attraction. I go somewhere to get a feel for the place. I go to see areas of beauty or of interest and to witness things first hand and for myself. I love photography but I am hard pressed to think of anywhere that I would gladly and keenly visit, that is improved by having my presence standing in front of and obscuring it. The desire to have a record of oneself standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, or Taj Mahal is nothing new: It's been around since the days of powder flashes and dry plates, but these images were produced at a different time and were a rarity. Travel was a novelty so why waste a print of an iconic building when you could have a portrait taken at the same time? It made sense. These days, however, it is a far more narcissistic process. "Here's me in ... what day is it? ..... Venice.", "You can't quite make it out, but here's me hiding Big Ben.". Several hundred snaps taken of your good self in front of an icon, to post to social media to prove that it you were there is a novelty that surely should have worn off years ago. By all means, take photos of loved ones. Why not? Some candid, some at a distance some closer up, some facing away and some front on, etc etc etc. The fact that these things are carried around, all set up and ready to go, shows to me, a complete lack of desire to think further than "I must be in these pictures.".
I was recently sitting having a beer in the 39 Steps Bar, Santorini, one evening, as the masses rushed and bumped their way to a vantage point way out of sight, and I was struck by a couple of miseries sitting opposite. They had ordered drinks that they clearly didn't want and food that they really didn't like. They flicked through their phones truculently and with no joy, no doubt looking at the thousands of photographs they had taken of themselves. No words were spoken between the pair for 20 minutes. He suddenly picks up his selfie stick and reels off 30 rapid shots of them both grinning and laughing wildly as they held the drinks up to their faces, ..... Drinks that had been previously untouched the whole time they were there. Who were these photographs for? A camera isn't supposed to lie. It's supposed to capture a moment. A moment of joy, to connect the taker between the past and the present and to unwrap a memory that might otherwise be forgotten. What purpose does it serve? It's absolutely ridiculous. Furthermore, on some bridges and cobbled lanes, there are so many of them hoisted up to the skies, that it actually feels like a guard of honour. The only difference being that you might lose and eye by the time you've reemerged from the Joust at the other end. Many places are beginning to ban them, and I totally agree with this act. I mean what does it really say? That I've saved up all my money, I've come to this place because it's always been my dream. Now I'm here, I'm going to stand with my back to the thing I'm supposed to be taking in, I'm going to wave it around until I look my best; where my chin isn't scrunched, my eyes aren't squinted and my mouth isn't hanging open in mirrored confusion. "Right, I've got pictures of me here, now where to next? Where's my next dream location?"
Here's a simple test that proves my point about their value and worth: If something is sold by a street pedlar, hassling you as you attempt to walk through a beautiful (once slightly more beautiful before the pedlar's arrival) Roman piazza, .... Is it any good? A brightly coloured ball of snot maybe? Constantly thrown down onto the pavement and reforming back into its original shape, good? What business does it have here? Why isn't something being done? If it were being sold at a Fair or at a Circus at a Kinderbloodygarten i may understand it but in the Piazza Navona? Why am I seeing hundreds of men, throughout the course of my day, sending little helicopters shooting up into the spires of Florence and falling back to the ground with their stupid little lights flickering on and off? It does not compute. Who is buying this stuff? Of course, the third favourite item they try to palm you off with is the Selfie Stick. Proof enough, that these things are indeed a blight, I think you'll agree. I rest my case.
Actually, the problem is so great now, that Rome, my most favourite of cities, is so full of these junk merchants, that the entire beauty of the some surroundings has gone. Some of the squares actually have to be avoided if Rome is to linger long in your mind's eye, as the gem it actually is. These people are only there because someone is buying this crap, and they shouldn't be. I'm not sure they should the buyers should actually be there in the first place. I'm sure they'd be happier somewhere else. This thing that happening regarding tourists who don't really want to be where they are, or not wanting to fit in (HDT's - See previous posts) is having a massively detrimental affect of some of the worlds finest and most beautiful destinations.
To use Rome as an example again; traditional Roman or Italian restaurants and Trattorias are closing down and being replaced by fast food outlets. Rome is losing its heart and soul because tourists demand to eat what they are used to and familiar with, over what is local and traditional. At what cost? This happened in Southern Spain in the 70's and is now happening in Italy. It's a calamity. At the heart of this, is the selfie stick problem. Places are full of people who want to be seen to be somewhere rather than those who truly want to see what is there. A selfie stick is not a method of getting a self portrait somewhere nice because I'm travelling on my own and I'm fed up with landscapes or it's just too hard to get a good shot. It's not handy, functional or clever. It's activewear in front of the Duomo. It's a MacDonald's on Via Margutta, it's an Irish Bar in Sorrento and it's ... just twatted me in the face again.
Finally, on a recent trip to the Maldives, I was taken aback, by the amount of photographs that couples were taking of themselves with these things. There was no way at all they were enjoying where they were. They were in paradise - Others would kill to be in their position, yet here they were pretending to kayak, pretending to swim, pretending to have a cocktail and pretending to be happy. It was soul destroying. Their selfie sticks might as well have been snipers rifles.