It's Time to Stick It to the Selfies

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

While it's always been cool to snap a photo at a famous place, smartphone cameras, selfie sticks and social media have taken the concept to an absurd level.

I recently returned from a two-week trip to Italy. The scenery was amazing, the food was fabulous and the people were great.

What wasn't so great is the growing infatuation with selfie sticks. Everywhere, including in crowded places like the Roman Coliseum, people were waving selfie sticks around in a frenzy. These days, it's remarkably easy to wind up with a phone embedded in your forehead.

Apparently, things have gotten so bad that the Russian government has released a safety guide for selfies. There are also daily news reports about people getting gored by bison and impaled by their stick while snowboarding.

Meanwhile, back at the Coliseum, one family in our tour group must have posed 25 times within a couple of hours. They obviously had rehearsed their roles because all five of them snapped into place instantly with Kardashianesque perfection. Perfect body angles, tilted heads, plastic smiles and even pouty lips on the women. Snap. Snap. Snap.

I'd be willing to wager that a lot of those photos wound up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites.

That's not a bad thing in itself. But one has to wonder whether this family—and other selfie-obsessed tourists—are more interested in showing off where they are at any given moment rather than actually enjoying and soaking in the experience.

It was tempting to shout out: "Do you realize where you are and the history of this place? Does it even matter to you?" Of course, this would have served even less purpose than shouting to the sky for rain.

While it has always been cool to snap a photo at a famous place for bragging rights, ego strokes or just plain fun, smartphone cameras, selfie sticks and social media have taken the concept to an absurd level.

Increasingly, it's not about the experience. It's about the show.

I realize that we live in a narcissistic age—and, apparently, it's important to look deliriously happy even when you're not. I don't profess to have all the answers about digital technology, but I do know this: When the point of visiting a famous place is primarily to show others you were there—and that your life is incredibly glamorous rather than embracing the specialness of the moment—something is seriously wrong.

It's time to stick it to the selfies.

This article was originally published on 2015-07-27
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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