Let's Stop Holding Selfie Sticks Up as All That is Wrong With Our Society. Let's Hold Them Up to Take Pictures.

I'm just going to come right out and say this: I think selfie sticks are a great idea. If I was fifteen years younger and still going clubbing on a regular basis, I would have had a selfie stick at the top of my Christmas wishlist. I wouldn't have worried that mobile phone snaps are lower quality than photos taken on a DSLR or that they're in some vague, indefinable way less authentic than those taken on 35mm - I would just have enjoyed being able to round up the gang and get a memento of our good time together without the need for a tripod or a self timer or to trust some random drunken stranger to handle my super-expensive camera. Brilliant.

Me in a nightclub in a "Bah Humbug" hat
Documenting Christmas drinking long before the selfie stick

But they seem to be being held up as this year's - and therefore the worst ever - example of all that is shallow and consumerist about Christmas and about The Youth of Today.

And I think that this is unfair on all counts.

I don't think hoping Santa brings you a £7 selfie stick is proof of explosive, corrosive greed. The issue isn't some young people wanting a novelty item for Christmas; the issue is some young people feeling entitled not just to the selfie stick but to the iPhone and the Macbook and the huge haul of MAC make up and the ten inch heels (I'm not going to hazard a guess at the current most coveted brand) and the designer dress to go with it.

And even then, I'm just taking the media's word for it that those greedy young people exist.

But let's say they do. It seems plausible. Plenty of people get themselves into debt every Christmas, plenty of people skip rent and mortgage payments in December - they must be doing that to meet somebody's unrealistic expectations, whether their child's or their friends' or their own.

Is the issue here that somebody buys a novelty Christmas present which we - with our fifteen extra years of honing our tastes - consider a bit tacky or is it that they're buying too many presents, full stop?

My belief is that it's the latter.

Take Steve and me as an example. Steve likes gnarly, grizzly fantasy gaming merchandise, angry music and things with skulls on - this all baffles me. I like soft, snuggly clothing, whimsical films and books full of feminist essays - not Steve's kind of thing. But that doesn't mean that Steve thinks my taste is wrong or that I think his taste is wrong or that either of us should be deprived of the things we would like because they don't fit with our partner's idea of perfect taste. We give each other gifts which we hope will be enjoyed.

But we give them within our budget. Most years, we spend around £30 on each other; this year we spent more; next year - and for the next few years - we expect to spend less.

Crucially, we don't believe that the amount of money we spend on gifts - or the amount of gifts which are given - are in any way a reflection of how special that Christmas could be.

I believe belittling the people giving and receiving selfie sticks for their lack of taste is unhelpful (not to mention kind of smug - I'm sure we've all wanted something a bit tacky at some point). What does it matter which style of trinket brings - or helps give - other people pleasure? That's nobody's business but their own.

What would be more helpful than ridiculing people's taste is spreading the idea that Christmas doesn't have to be about spending a lot. I'd like to see more people writing honestly about their budgets - what they could afford to spend; what they bought with that amount; where they cut corners. I'd like to see more people talking about buying their dinner in Lidl instead of Waitrose. I'd like to standardise what kids receive "from Santa" (as opposed to from their parents, relatives and/or guardians) so that nobody feels rejected when they receive a clementine and their neighbour receives a games console.

Mostly, I'd like to see more emphasis on the non-consumerist aspects of Christmas - less focus on which gifts we're wishing for and what we're giving and what we received, and more focus on inexpensive traditions like cold winter walks, feeding the ducks, playing old favourite board games, making a team effort of the cooking and curling up on the sofa to watch festive films on TV.

And that brings me back to selfie sticks. Because, if we place the focus of Christmas firmly on creating wonderful memories, what's so shallow about wanting to record them?

It used to be that we would pose our (sometimes resentful) family, mount our camera on a tripod, set the self timer and dash back into the awkward shot; now we can hug everybody to us, wave a selfie stick in the air and snap the shot before anyone's had time to freak out or freeze.

It used to be that we would write a long letter full of our family's achievements, enclose the embarrassing photograph and send off copies to everyone we knew; now we upload the image to Facebook and assume that our loved ones have read enough status updates to know all our latest news.

The desire to record our happy moments is nothing new; the impulse to share those moments with other people is no more narcissistic now than it was forty years ago; all that has changed is the technology we choose we utilise (and, by extension, how many people we happen to reach).

So enough of bashing the selfie sticks (you'll only break them). Let's celebrate instead that so many young people are having such happy moments that they're looking for ever more convenient ways of saving them.

4 comments

  1. YES. You are so completely right in so many ways. The selfie stick is being picked on by the media when there's many other things wrong with the consumerist attitude to Christmas that could be addressed instead.
    It's a clichéd phrase but it is the thought that counts and a present doesn't have to be new/expensive/designer to be good. I had actually thought about writing a post about our Christmas budget and how/where we bought presents before I even read this but I didn't know whether people would be interested or not.
    I agree with you, it's excellent that so many people are making memories they want to capture forever and the selfie stick is just another method of doing that (society never used to bash people for wanting a tripod or a camera with a timer function). I would quite like a selfie stick really as it'd make capturing shots of the whole family so much easier than running back and forth from the camera to the table! xx

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  2. I completely agree with this - they've taken an item that is meant to be a bit of fun and turned it into something completely hyperbolised and mad.

    Lizzie Dripping

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  3. Yep, totally sensationalised reporting.

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  4. I've more or less given up trying to figure out whether or not people will be interested in my posts - I can never predict which ones are going to go down well and which aren't - but *I* would be interested in that type of post.


    Bet you can find one in the sales somewhere...!

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Please play nice.