Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost (Unless They've Got A Selfie Stick)

03/02/2016 3:55 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Vanni Bassetti via Getty Images
PARIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 06: Tourists take a selfie using a selfie stick in front of the Eiffel Tower on August 6, 2015 in Paris, France. Using a selfie stick has become a more and more common place among tourists but a number of high-profile attractions in Paris and other cities have started to ban them over fears of potential damage to exhibits. (Photo by Vanni Bassetti/Getty Images)

Congratulations to the person who invented the selfie stick. They saw a need, or perhaps a desire, and produced a device which serves no useful purpose except to pander to people's egos.

Before social media allowed us to post information about the minutiae of everyday life -- such as the fact that we'd just eaten an orange or watched the Kardashians on TV -- our everyday lives were fairly private. No one cared about us then, just as few people really care about us now.

When smart phones evolved to become less about making and receiving phone calls and more about turning us into filmmakers, photographers and online publishers of dross, many people took the cue to use them to bore the rest of us with their inane comments and dreary lives.

While the selfie stick was invented because people do not possess Inspector Gadget-like telescopic arms, it's function feeds narcissism. It resolves our penchant for wanting to be noticed.

Personally, I am not keen on taking selfies, nor am I indulgent enough to include myself in my own travel photos. There are far more interesting things to photograph.

Occasionally I indulge. Four months ago in India, I stumbled across a large facsimile of Shrek. I had to take a selfie then because a) I was travelling though India and you don't expect to see giant Shreks there, and b) I was travelling by myself, so there was no one else to take the photo, and c) I do look a lot like Shrek -- if I was green we could be identical twin brothers -- so it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

But in the past 18 months or so, selfie sticks have become more prominent, particularly among tourists.

In a way that does make sense, because tourists are travelling to new places. They are on vacation and they want a record of where they've been. It would be weird for those same travellers to carry selfie sticks with them at home, for there is no good reason to photograph yourself when enduring the drudgery of normal life.

What really gets me, though, is how many people blatantly ruin a shot of a gorgeous view by putting themselves in front of it.

"Look at me!! I'm standing in front of the Taj Mahal. That's the building you can barely see behind my left ear, but don't I look great?"

I'm a ponderer. The sort of person who really enjoys sitting to admire an interesting scene of a great view. Other people often get in the way of my outlook, which is their right, because they too are entitled to have a gawk. So, I observe them instead, because it is hard to miss how these self-absorbed folk capture that precious moment for posterity.

Out comes the smartphone attached to a selfie stick. It is held with one hand, which is fortunate, as that allows them to make a 'V' sign with the unencumbered hand, for all of their Facebook and Instagram friends to admire.

I've watched many people ruin every shot by putting themselves in it, and I just don't get it. I do understand that travel is an emotional pursuit. Seeing something grand, unique or beautiful is part of the reason we travel. However, it is the total experience which, for me, is the most memorable.

For example, standing outside Buckingham Palace is wonderful, but it's not the actual sight of the palace that is so special because it is one of the world's most photographed buildings and most people know what it looks like before they visit.

No, the pleasure is all about the various aspects of the visit, rather than the building itself. The approach to the palace from The Mall. That speck at the end of the road which gets grander as you close in. The people you interact with as you make your journey. Its spatial significance is important. You're in London, so the weather always has an impact. There are so many other elements combining to make your visit to Buck House special.

Those who just take selfies probably ignore all of those components, merely focussing on themselves. That's why selfie sticks are instruments of narcissism. You are not capturing the essence of your experience, you are merely idolising yourself for being in a place that is not home.

More On This Topic