a peek inside the fishbowl

06 Jan, 2016

Are selfie sticks a symptom of a narcissistic generation or an innovative photography tool?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!|Photography

I picked up a selfie stick at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s before Christmas. Maybe you got one in your stocking this year, or know someone who did?

Selfie sticks have been a hot item but they’ve also been getting a lot of flak. They’ve been banned from many places already – museums, roller coasters and zoos for example – and are generally considered to be a scourge on society.

Selfies themselves are not a very well respected form of photography. People generally don’t like the LOOK AT ME attitude that comes with the idea of the selfie – regardless of whether it’s intended that way or not. It’s considered narcissistic.

From what I’ve seen, the majority of selfies are artfully composed to show the best angles in the most flattering lighting and heavily edited afterwards to make sure no scars/pimples/blotchy skin is revealed. I personally don’t have an issue with selfies. I think most people don’t love photos of themselves, and this is a photography technique in which we can totally control the outcomes and end up with a great photo. And that’s not a bad thing.

So I found myself mulling over my purchase of a selfie stick, wondering if I would ever be brave enough to use it in public. I decided to buy it anyway. You see, photos taken with a selfie stick can offer a whole new perspective on whatever scene I am trying to capture. I wouldn’t mock a guy with a tripod, so how is this any different?

I decided to try it out in public while on the job. There was a charitable/shopping event happening in Wellington West so I thought I’d ask each participating store owner to snap a selfie using my new selfie stick. This was my first foray into the world with a selfie stick.

But first, I had to figure out how to use the thing. HOW HARD COULD IT BE? IT’S A CAMERA ON A STICK. Honestly, I should have done a test run at home before I left, because I accidentally took 200+ photos while trying to set it up and they all looked like this:

Selfie stick troubles.


Then I handed it to each store owner, who, with good humour and a bit of patience, ended up with better results than I did with only a few boo boos along the way (and yes, that’s me, trying to get out of the way in the background):

Selfie stick experiment

Experiments with a selfie stick

My goal this year is to use the selfie stick for some family portraits (it’s hard to squeeze everyone in otherwise!) and maybe try a few more work-related adventures. But first I need a bit more practice. I have to admit, it will take me some time to get over the awkwardness of using it in public. Maybe it will get less weird the more often I do it.

6 Responses to "Are selfie sticks a symptom of a narcissistic generation or an innovative photography tool?"

1 | binki

January 6th, 2016 at 1:23 pm


Almost always a symptom of a narcissistic generation.

Exception: I agree that it’s no different than a tripod if used to get a decent group photo.

2 | Carrie

January 6th, 2016 at 1:55 pm


Oh boy, is this a hot-button topic for me. I am a selfie stick supporter. It is a tool, and like all other tools, it can be used by someone who’s obnoxious and rude with it, or it can be used by someone who is polite and doesn’t infringe on anyone else with it. I am an avid GoPro user and a GoPro needs to be mounted to something in order to use it. I do at times use a selfie stick and produce home movies with it such as this:


I do not extend my pole three feet and walk through crowds, I do not swat others over the head with it, I do not let it fly or use it in dangerous situations. Yes, at Disney World I used it on the rides – when it was not against the rules to do so, when it was not dangerously extended out of the ride vehicle, and when I had it securely tethered to my person so that in the event that I lost my grip on it, nobody would get hurt. I know the rules have changed since I was there last, and I will abide by the new rules the next time I go.

I don’t get the hate for selfie sticks. If I am using it and not infringing on your rights as I do so, then what do you (general you) care? Why does this make me a narcissist? Using a selfie stick provides for some fun perspectives and instead of making a movie that looks like my husband and kids went on a great trip together, I get to be in the action, too.

Why is it unacceptable to judge people for so many different reasons, yet it’s OK to judge them on this one silly issue?

Ugh. Obviously this hits a nerve with me.

3 | Genevieve

January 6th, 2016 at 4:28 pm


I used to be against the self-stick. However, when my boyfriend and I travel, we enjoy taking pictures together and it is annoying to ask other people and there is always a risk of a stranger dropping/stealing your phone or camera. With the selfie stick (which I am still very self-conscious using), we can get a quick picture with both of us in it. I do not enjoy looking at a hundred pictures of scenery/landscape, but I do enjoy perusing pictures with someone I know in them. Do I need to be in every single picture? Absolutely not! But it is nice to have a few momentos from a special event (taken by the selfie stick!).

4 | Carla

January 7th, 2016 at 12:30 pm


I haven’t thought of it as narcissistic.

For me, the selfie stick makes me sad. It strikes me as a sign of how alienated we are becoming from each other that even where there are people are who could take a photo, we bring out a stick. Why not ask a person for help? get to chat, you know, human contact?

And yes, you could get the picture just the way you want with a selfie stick but that raises the question to me of whether that ‘perfect’ picture is more important than human contact, talking to people. Maybe the photo won’t be just right, but let’s face it, most people take so so many photos that not getting the one photo you wanted when you were at X place, is that going to diminish your enjoyment of that experience that much less?

I take photos regularly don’t take me wrong, but I find that we are as a society really veering into a place where we live our experiences through photos and selfies rather than being in the moment. For example at the Christmas show at my kids’ school, more people spent time filming and photographing their kid than being in the moment to enjoy seeing them dance!

Maybe we don’t need to selfie-fy everything. Maybe a bad photo or heck, no photo is ok. Maybe we should reach out and talk to one another more.

5 | binki

January 8th, 2016 at 9:18 am


I’ll let this Globe & Mail article make the case …against.


“Don’t you feel a little self-conscious using it? I asked Dechant, the young Vancouver store owner. “Only if you care what people think,” he replied.”

6 | andrea tomkins

January 11th, 2016 at 3:02 pm


Ooh, that’s a great article binki. Thanks for the link.

I think it’s really interesting that a single item like that can evoke such passionate discourse and feeling. It seems you either love it or hate it.

I guess I see the selfie stick as a tool that people can use to create art and document their lives in a way that makes them happy. But if it gets in the way of other people’s enjoyment of their surroundings it can get annoying. Like someone blasting a stereo at the beach, for example.

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