The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion In defense of the Selfie Stick

Stop maligning the Selfie Stick, friends.

I know, I say “friends” as though this concept is not obsolete, replaced with “friends” (n., acquaintances who have to keep Liking your Facebook updates and Instagram pictures) and sticks.

But the “selfie stick” is apparently a thing now, because we are doing our darnedest as a species to avoid having to interact with other people ever ever ever under any circumstances.

This is wise. People are terrible. The more of them you have around, the fewer snacks for you. They are responsible for pretty much everything that is wrong in the world except cold sideways rain. People sit next to you on airplanes and cough. Real people in any given room are always disappointing in contrast to the Infinite and Charming Potential Of People Who Are Not In The Room. This gap is frustrating, and it is the reason why we spend all our time staring hopefully into our phones. People, in a word, stink.

Let us replace them with sticks.

Follow Alexandra Petri's opinionsFollow

Look, there is nothing people love more than announcing some new horrible bugbear that will end human communication as we know it/turn the world into a nightmare land of zombie narcissists. First it was the selfie. Now it’s the selfie stick. I’m sure when the mirror initially came out people had similar concerns. (“You can look at your own image ANYWHERE, not just in MOTIONLESS POOLS as GOD INTENDED.”)

But selfies are not bad, per se. The idea that they are a Horrible Sign of Self-Indulgence (and/or a good title for a sitcom) is a myth spread by op-ed writers and TV executives. Selfies make perfect sense when you have just gone through an ordeal or received a boon or are standing next to one of the Most Photographed Places or Items on Earth. In that last case, the only thing about your situation that is different from any of the hundreds of readily available, pristine photographs of that same spot online is 1) you are a worse photographer than anyone who has taken a picture of this place before and 2) you are there, yourself, standing in front of the thing. Might as well lean in to #2.

And for #2, the selfie stick is there to help us along.

“What’s wrong with the human arm?” Well, plenty. Arms have limits. They only reach so far, unless you are Mr. Fantastic.

I’m sure there are hipsters, even now, lamenting “I just think without the organic feel of the human arm, the selfie really loses something,” but we have not listened to them before, and we need not heed them now.

The only real trouble with Selfie Sticks is that they exist in the optimism valley. You know what I mean — that gap between What You Actually Do and What You Imagine You Do whenever you go to a store and try to buy something. “Do you need advanced video editing capacity?” the Apple Genius asks, respectfully, as you look at laptops, and you respond, “Absolutely I do. I need all the advanced editing capacity you can give me.” In the moment after he asked this question, you have become an editor-director who also makes music. Never mind that you have never done this before and, in fact, the only time you have ever opened Garage Band was when you clicked it by mistake. All that is in the past. This is now, and suddenly the idea of not having Advanced Editing capacity leaves you gripped with a paralyzing terror.

This is the same impulse that makes you sign up for vegetables to be mailed to you, monthly, by the boxload. “Absolutely I will use a cubic foot of celery a week,” you say. “I’ll live off the stuff.”

The selfie stick plays into this. Whenever you see people defending it, they usually say things like, “With a selfie stick, you can get great Action Shots on the sides of mountains” or “With a selfie stick, you never need to worry about holding your camera as you take pictures of yourself scaling K4 at the end of a triple-decathlon.” This seems absurd when you hear it from someone else. But when it is you, it is perfectly reasonable. Just because you have never scaled a mountain with one hand before does not mean that you could not start, tomorrow, if you really wanted to. And just in case, you need that stick.

But however it came into our midst, the selfie stick is with us now. And if you never use it to take those exciting pictures on cliffs that you initially hoped, it still has uses. You can …

• Paint it to look like a wizard staff. Dang it, if you are going to carry a stick around to indicate to people that I Came To This Event By Myself, it had better be a wizard staff.

• Tap people with it to get them to take a picture for you. (Admittedly this creates as many problems as it solves. Half the point of the selfie stick is that you do not have to depend on the dubious benevolence of the people around you, who often don’t know how to work your phone and will certainly not know that you do not always look, in pictures, like something that has just come out of the swamp to eat everyone in the movie.)

• Dress it up in a little jacket and give it a name.

As long as it’s going to replace your friends, you might as well go whole hog.