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We often poke fun at each other for snapping selfies whenever any life event occurs – brunch, a haircut, waking up (see the Instagram hashtag #iwokeuplikethis). But sometimes selfie shaming is not only justified, it's necessary.
Last month, when a gas leak triggered a building in New York City's East Village to explode and collapse along with two neighbouring buildings, there were scenes of stoic New York heroism that echoed those of 9/11. But amid the scenes of bravery – people scaling fire escapes and guiding people to safety – there were also displays of unthinkable insensitivity.
"Reporters and rubberneckers flocked to Second Avenue and East Seventh Street, where the seven-alarm fire eventually demolished three buildings," Mashable's Brian Koerber reported. "While many people expressed condolences for those affected by the blaze, others posed for selfies – complete with smiles."
That's right. People stood in front of the burning embers, and as firefighters and members of the public battled to save the people trapped in the rubble, they turned their backs, positioned their peace signs and their much-practiced smiles, and snapped photos of themselves.
Those that lived in neighbouring buildings erected signs as people posed on their steps. "This is a tragedy, not a tourist attraction. Show some respect," read one. "Gawkers: please keep off our stoop," read another.
But if that wasn't enough insult to injury: "some even used a selfie stick to capture just the right angle" for their photos, added Koerber. These people didn't even try to hide their feats of epic narcissism – they held them up on poles for all to see.
And see, we did. A team of seven selfie-ing women got their comeuppance on the cover of the New York Post, where their photo ran with the headline "Village Idiots". Screeds of approving tweets followed. "Epic selfie shaming. Give the Post the public service Pulitzer right now", wrote J. Freedom du Lac.
Selfie sticks have retained a steady presence in the news since Christmas, when they became a popular present. But as the glorified tent poles infiltrate increasing areas of our lives, they seem to become more maligned than beloved. So why don't we ban them altogether?
They're certainly not welcomed by pop singer St Vincent, who starts every show with an automated announcement asking audience members to focus on the performance instead of recording it. Prince, Björk and British rock band Savages have also asked crowds to keep their cell phones in their pockets when at their shows.
It's the same as when tourists snap themselves at landmarks. Regardless of whether they're using selfie sticks, simply using a cell phone to take their own photo isolates them from their surroundings, and their peers. It's now possible to travel the world and barely talk to anyone. The few simple human interactions you could count on having, and which could heighten your enjoyment by way of human interaction and cultural connection, are being replaced with the solitary act of stretching out your arm and snapping yourself.
This has been a regular sight at museums and concerts since personal cameras became commonplace. But with selfie sticks, these acts of self-documentation are becoming more aggressive. And it seems the powers that be have also spent enough time peering between selfie-takers' outstretched arms at concerts and having their views at museums impeded by phones perched on poles. The list of festivals, bars and museums that ban selfie sticks is growing, with Coachella and Lollapalooza the latest to be added to the list.
These tools are giving our generation a bad name, as some seem to lay the blame of selfie sticks' existence squarely with Millennials. "Please tell me this isn't real and is in fact a cleverly photoshopped parody of awful Millennials," tweeted Sonny Bunch about the selfie-takers on the New York Post cover. But he needn't worry for long – the rebellion is real. As they continue to be taken down physically and figuratively, there will only be more people who refuse to touch selfie sticks with a ten-foot pole. I'll be one of them.
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