On a recent trip to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in NYC, I was struck by how many people were toting around “selfie sticks”, those collapsible metal rods that hold a cell phone and allow you to take a photo of yourself or a small group without having to stretch your arms.
I suppose they serve a purpose, given how ubiquitous they were throughout the city that day, but I can’t help feeling like this is yet another step in the path towards a solitary, less social world. We already have a generation of teens and young adults who will sit right next to one another and never look up from their phone screens. In many cases, they’ll even be texting one another, rather than tear their eyes away from the screen and simply talk to their friend sitting beside them.
The New York Times recently reported on this “selfie stick” craze, and at the end of the article, it claims that these devices are good to have, especially in New York City, because “You don’t have to ask anyone for a favor to take your picture, and that’s very New York not to bother anyone.”
As a native New Yorker, I strongly disagree.
When I lived and worked in New York City, there were countless times when I offered to take photos for tourists, and countless other times they asked me first. I was always happy to oblige, and it gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. They often had questions, too, and I was able to point them in the direction of a good restaurant, or the nearest clean restroom, and give them directions on the subway.
Now, selfie sticks make that kind of unexpected, serendipitous interaction obselete.