We recently learned that both Coachella and Lollapalooza have banned the selfie stick, or, as the controversial devices are becoming more aptly known, the narcistick (because narcissism).
As far as I’m concerned, this is simply the first wave of the narcistick prohibition that should be welcomed with open arms. The strange selfie craze is going too far. Let’s stop it before it’s too late!
First, a Short Rant
I first came across these ubiquitous GoPro- and smartphone-wielding telescopic rods last year while sightseeing in Indonesia. As I trundled around in the heat, my gaze was violently stolen by the hoards of other tourists marching around in large groups, all grasping selfie sticks as if they were holding onto some winning lottery numbers.
These tourists stared not at the staggering beauty of their surroundings, but at their own reflection as it gaped and grinned right back at them. Not from two feet away, mind you, like I somehow manage with my biological selfie arm, but from five or more feet away. Because it’s obviously too difficult to ask a passerby to take a photo.
As the five second timer counted down, the joint model-photographer quickly adjusted their hair, and turned their body to the perfectly practiced, favorable angle. Cue another homogeneous shot of themselves, in front of something that we’d rather see instead. At least everyone at home is reassured that, “I managed to get this close to this attraction. My life is totes amaze-balls”.
The same goes for music festivals. Shot after shot of them. Of them and their friends. Of them in front of their tent. Of them drinking a beer. Of them dancing to Paramore. Of them and 10,000 other people. Of them and their wristband.
The worst thing though, is the videos. The videos of someone walking around looking at a tourist attraction (seriously, people do that). And another shaky video (among hundreds of others being recorded simultaneously) of the band they’re only half watching.
Unless you’re making an awesome video like the one below, or recording footage for a website or blog, there’s no real reason to record videos of yourself with a selfie stick. And if you insist on taking selfie after selfie, at least do something interesting with them!
I’m a crank. I know. But selfie sticks? Let’s ban them from all music festivals right now. Here are four reasons why this is the right thing to do for all our sakes.
#1 The Safety (or Lack Thereof)
I’m not one to pull out the health and safety card willy-nilly. I like a bit of danger as much as the next person. But I’ve also dropped my phone on to my face while texting in bed. The agony of a phone falling less than two feet on to your nose is enough for you to vow never to text in that position again.
Granted, many of the “new generation” selfie sticks do hold your camera pretty securely, but if you’re using the cheap piece of kit your workmates bought for you as a joke (which you constantly see at music festivals), rest assured that your phone/camera is not being held securely. If your face (or someone else’s) isn’t there to painfully break that rapid fall of your smartphone, someone’s flip-flipped toes likely will be.
[Some] Premier League football grounds have banned the devices to discourage deliberate outbreaks of violence. Tottenham Hotspur was the first team to ban selfie sticks from their White Hart Lane stadium; Arsenal followed suit soon after.
Although we all like to think of music festivals as organized, joyous occasions, they’ve also been known to degenerate into terrifying riots, with plenty of dangers on offer. Selfie sticks are not something you want within easy reach when it all kicks off.
#2 The View (or Lack Thereof)
Back in the good ol’ days, it used to be the case that people went to a festival to have some fun with their friends and enjoy the music. Now, people need to record every moment of it, and to instantly publish that record of events to a gaggle of fans on Facebook and Instagram.
It used to be the case that, bar the odd flag fluttering across the crowd (provided you weren’t too vertically challenged), you could see the stage. Remember that? You could see the thing you’d paid to see. Such joy. Now, that expectation is a luxury reserved for those lucky enough (or bashful enough) to wrestle their way to the front of the crowd.
The rest of us are greeted with the sight of thousands of bopping heads, and hundreds of metal sticks with expensive gadgets mounted atop hovering four or five feet above that. No matter how vertically superior you are now, there’s no chance in hell you’re getting a clear, unobstructed sight of that stage, let along a legitimately good photograph.
As Sree Sreenivasan, the chief digital officer at The Met poignantly points out in The New York Times, “It’s one thing to take a picture at arm’s length, but when it is three times arm’s length, you are invading someone else’s personal space”. Hear, hear!
#3 The Value of the Phone (or Lack Thereof)
While recently shopping around for an iPhone 6, I was horrified to learn that one of these contraptions was selling for pretty much the same price as my MacBook Air. The same goes for the new Samsung Galaxy Edge.
Would you catch me precariously balancing my MacBook Air above thousands of dancing drunks? Of course not. And nor should you. So why do so many people think it’s OK to do this with an equally expensive phone?
Unless you’re splashed out on a pretty burly selfie stick, they really aren’t that secure. It’s only a matter of time before your closest companion — your phone — tumbles to the ground to injure someone, to be trampled into the ground, or to be stolen from its flimsy grasp.
#4 Unauthorized Recordings
According to Rolling Stone, “selfie sticks are also viewed as encouraging the unauthorized recording of the festival’s performances”. There’s no denying that recording a 30-60 minute video while holding an extended selfie stick at waist-height is much easier than trying to do the same by holding a phone above your head for 15 minutes.
By removing selfie sticks from the equation, we’re able to attempt to protect the professional art of videography (and its profitability). The advent of decent smartphone cameras all but destroyed the photography industry. Let’s not let the same fate strike videography at music festivals.
Conclusion: There’s a Time and a Place
Don’t get me wrong, I take selfies too. I even had a selfie stick for a short time, before it broke and my phone smashed into the ground. The problem with selfie sticks being used at music festivals is the display of pure egocentricity and disrespect for other people in attendance.
When camera phones first became popular, we’d tolerate the occasional hand shooting out of the crowd to capture a quick shot, or take a short video. But now, you can expect to see a smartphone or GoPro held in the air, directly blocking your line of vision for possibly the entire performance. This causes the experience to be diluted, if not entirely spoiled, for those around you.
There’s a time and a place for selfie sticks (one of them is in ironic political campaigns, like the one above). But if you do insist on taking selfies, please follow these basic selfie rules.
And really, when it comes to the crunch, how better it is to be fully present, enjoying the music rather than half-halfheartedly passing the time there? We’re sure you’ll agree that the effort you’re putting into failing to keep your camera steady, safe, at the right angle, and out of people’s hair would be much, much better spent being in the moment, and being able to relive that moment from a crisp memory rather than a blurred video.
But It’s My Right!
For those of you who think it’s your RIGHT to use a selfie stick wherever you like? I take your argument on board but raise you the fact that the Winnipeg’s Museum of Human Rights has banned the narcistick, too. Which really says all you need to know about this increasingly annoying gadget.
What do you think? Are we being too harsh on selfie-sticks? And should they be allowed in music festivals?
Image Credits: Coachella Day 2 by Shawn Ahmed (via Flickr), Curse of the Selfie Stick by Larry Miller (via Flickr), Demolished iPhone 5 by Michael Gil (via Flickr), Selfie Stick by R4VI (via Flickr), IMG_2832 by Glasgowbury (via Flickr), Katy Perry Stage by mark.watmough (via Flickr)