Banning Selfie Sticks: A Mask for Anti-Selfie Sentiment

Wimbledon, one of the four major tennis Grand Slams, is the newest name on a steadily-growing list of locations and organizations banning the use of selfie sticks. The All England Club, which annually organizes Wimbledon, claimed that they are “a nuisance to spectators,” making them a prohibited item alongside things like knives, flares, firearms and sirens.

While it’s perfectly understandable that sporting event organizers wouldn’t want people potentially obstructing the view of other fans in the middle of a game with their selfie sticks, the reasoning of other establishments as to why they disallow selfie sticks is a bit spottier. For example, many museums have banned selfie sticks by providing the reasoning that they might damage paintings or accidentally smack other patrons.

Now, unless the selfie stick owner is markedly oblivious or holds a grudge against fine art, I highly doubt they’d be negligent enough to allow either of the above scenarios to actually happen. Sure, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that somebody might actually hit somebody else or destroy incredibly valuable pieces of art with their humble selfie sticks, but despite my best search engine sleuthing, no museums have actually reported such things happening.

Instead, I believe that this campaign against selfie sticks is simply an extension of the campaign against selfies themselves. You can’t really ban selfies, since something like that would require the banning of cameras in general, so why not just ban selfie sticks instead? This point might seem like a bit of a non-sequitur, but it becomes less so when you learn that many museum patrons have been railing against selfies for years, believing that they cheapen the museum experience and that those who take selfies with the museum’s collection are not “properly” embracing the art.

The above grievances are not only in the context of museum culture, too. As it turns out, some people just really, really hate selfies.  Here are, as follows, the majority of the descriptors assigned to selfie takers that I found through articles and comments written, surprisingly, by real people: idiotic, self-obsessed, egotistical, friendless, insecure, moronic, annoying, neglected, “detractors to society,” narcissistic (at least once per sentence and comment, practically), ugly, unimportant and a whole crowd of others that I’m not really comfortable writing down.

Sure, I guess I will concede that some people take selfies solely out of a drive for attention. But what about everybody else?  What about the people who take selfies to remember special days spent with friends? What about the people who take selfies as a way to gradually build up their self-confidence? What about the people who will, when they’re older, have an album of pictures of themselves in their youth out in the world and enjoying things? What’s gained in shaming people who are so comfortable with themselves that they’re willing to share pictures of themselves online?

I guess my point is that there’s honestly no reason to waste so much energy spiting people for taking selfies. Is somebody whipping out their smartphone camera and snapping a picture of themselves really worth all of this vitriol? Don’t you, uh, have anything better to do?

Selfies are actually commercially-beneficial in a lot of situations, too. Museums have actually benefitted greatly from selfie culture; many of them set specific dates for “selfie days” where people visit and snap pictures of themselves with various paintings and sculptures and upload the pictures with a specific hashtag. This not only bolsters museum attendance but also allows museum collections to be used in new generationally-apt ways; it also, y’know, makes a good chunk of money for the museum. Many other companies have created events like this, like lesser-known amusement parks and restaurants, and have seen similar benefits.

While there are legitimate reasons to ban selfie sticks, there are no really legitimate reasons to rail against selfies. It’s perfectly fine for people to have their opinions, but when their opinions involve actively trying to tear somebody down for doing something that doesn’t even really affect their lives on even a minute personal level, they need to calm down a little bit. So. while these angry people are busy speaking badly about the narcissistic evils of “this generation,” “this generation” will be out in the world having fun and taking plenty of selfies while doing so, selfie stick or not.

 

Evan Siegel is a first-year literary journalism major.  He can be reached at ejsiegel@uci.edu.