“Oh look! A selfie stick,” says one passerby, pointing at me and my friend, Puppy. Thirty seconds later another mutters “idiots” as he walks past. Ignoring the insult, I struck another pose and tried to angle myself so I was in the way of as many people as possible. How had I got myself into this situation?
In truth, it was entirely my fault. Never someone to say no to a ridiculous assignment, Ryan Dube, MakeUseOf’s Managing Editor, easily convinced me to conduct a small social experiment: I’d take a selfie stick out in public and generally act like an obnoxious idiot to see how people reacted. Always ready to laugh at my stupidity, Puppy eagerly joined me on my (mis)adventure.
Ryan strongly suggested that me getting punched probably wouldn’t be the best idea, so going out of our way to be truly offensive was off the table. Instead, Puppy and I decided to channel our inner tourists. We’d visit a museum, Dublin’s main shopping street and a coffee shop and selfie the hell out of everything while waving my iPhone around on the end of a three foot rod.
The Rise of the Selfie Stick
Until just before Christmas last year, the term “selfie stick” was practically unheard of. In the run-up to the holidays, they became the must-have stocking filler. A selfie stick even made it onto one of our gift guides.
The backlash has been as fast as their rise. Selfies have been a subject for ridicule over the last couple of years and selfie sticks have been seen by many as a step too far. Major music festivals and museums have banned attendees from bringing them. Our own, normally reserved, commenters have expressed strong opinions over what should be done with people who used selfie sticks.
Despite all the scorn, selfies and selfie sticks are as popular as ever. I wanted to get away from online rants about egotistical hipsters and channel my inner narcissist out in the real world. As a compulsive Snapchat user, it wasn’t a difficult task.
The Science Museum
The first stop on our tourist tour of Dublin was the Science Gallery — it’s basically a science museum with some art installations. We sauntered in, selfie stick swinging and started to explore the exhibitions. Rather than being asked to leave, the staff seemed entirely indifferent to our narcissistic posing. No amount of duck facing could draw their attention. Even other patrons only seemed a little bemused.
Seeing as it’s the middle of Dublin’s tourist season, I expect the staff are so used to selfie stick wielding visitors that unless I physically walloped someone with one, they weren’t going to bat an eyelid. Physically assaulting people was going to be hard to justify to Ryan so, after an hour of being completely ignored, we moved on to our next destination.
The Shopping Street
Next on our list of targets was Grafton Street, the main shopping street in the city. There we were guaranteed a steady stream of people passing by to annoy. Taking position in the center of the street, myself and Puppy started working our poses. Embracing my deep desire to be Derek Zoolander, I turned Blue Steel on the (un)willing crowd.
While the museum staff was jaded by the constant stream of narcissists, the regular Dublin public were not as prepared. A fair number of people who walked by us looked at what we were doing, and a few even passed comment.
Using the front facing camera, we were able to angle ourselves to get in the way of anyone approaching from behind, but even this sort of obnoxious activity didn’t draw much ire. For the most part, we were a minor novelty. Despite our best efforts at being ignorant tourists, we never managed to really annoy anyone. Someone muttering “idiots” was the worst we got.
At this point, myself and Puppy were badly in need of a coffee so we headed to our next destination.
The Coffee Shop
As we walked into the coffee shop tragedy struck: constant selfie-ing had killed my iPhone’s battery. Fortunately, no one else knew. As long as I kept waving my selfie stick around like a pillock, I could keep my terrible secret to myself.
After getting coffees, we took our seats by the window and settled in to wait. Slowly other customers trickled in and took over the seats nearby. I busted out a few of my best poses and managed to attract a few strange glances from people at the table opposite. That, however, was the height of it.
No glares, shouted warnings, or lobbed projectiles. People just weren’t that fussed.
Feeling completely ignored, Puppy and I called it a day.
Inside the Mind of a Serial Selfie-ist
While I take my fair share of selfies — much to the amusement of my friends and MakeUseOf colleagues — I’d never used a selfie stick before. Going into the experiment, I was expecting the people around me to care a lot more about it.
Myself and Puppy made no secret of what we were doing. The selfie stick was fully extended almost the entire time we were wandering the city. We went out of our way to be awkward and obnoxious without crossing over into physical assault. Most people using a selfie stick would probably be a little more restrained, and certainly wouldn’t spend 15 minutes standing in the middle of a major street waving a three-foot long aluminum pole.
Even still, no one was really that bothered.
Before starting the experiment, I also thought I’d feel a lot more self-conscious than I did. A selfie stick is just a natural extension of taking regular selfies — the extra reach makes for much better images. I didn’t feel any more awkward than I would have by just using my phone. If, however, the crowd had turned against me, I expect I would have felt different.
With that said, I probably wouldn’t recommend everyone buy a selfie stick and head to your local museum. Although people didn’t react with anger, I was still acting like an idiot.
Just because no one called me on my antics, it doesn’t mean they were appropriate or acceptable. I love taking selfies and think they get bad rap, but there’s a time and a place. Mounting your phone on the end of a pole is an incredibly inconsiderate thing to do. We blocked peoples’ view of exhibits in a museum, we deliberately got in the way on a major street and we interrupted pleasant coffee dates.
While no one said anything, there’s no doubt in my mind that we lessened other people’s experiences. Unless you’re careful, if you use a selfie stick in public, you probably will too.
How would you react if you saw me and my friend posing in the center of a major street? Would you call us on our idiocy or just ignore us? We’d love to know what you think.