While in Austin this month for SXSW, I became the new owner of a selfie stick. I must point out that I didn’t purchase this stick. It was gifted to me in one of the many goodie bags you’re inevitably handed during the festival. The reason I must be clear that I didn’t shell out money for the stick is that I despise these inventions.
What could possibly be so awful about a small photography tool, one may wonder. Well, it goes back to my adventures across Italy last fall. In every city I visited, selfie sticks were all the rage. Just off Venetian canals, they there were in droves for sale. In front of the Duomo in Florence, they there were. In front of the Colosseum, there they were. Well, you get the idea.
The selfie stick had become as common as any other touristy souvenir. Seeing said sticks for sale isn’t so awful. It became awful for me when I saw them in use.
It was a perfect fall day in Florence. I was taking part in a favorite travel activity: wandering. As I turned a corner, I found myself walking behind a tourist. And not just any tourist. This tourist was carrying a selfie stick in order to capture video of himself walking through Florence. I instantly thought of this tourist’s poor friends back home who may be subjected to this narcissistic and boring video. For a moment, I thought about trying to rescue his friends by absconding the selfie stick but then I realized how sad the situation was. This tourist was walking through one of the world’s great cities and he was missing it.
He was missing all of the little details that can define a place–the way the light hits a building, the local graffiti, the small architectural elements over a doorway. These are the things I love to discover. I have photos of some of them from strange medieval looking doorbells in Venice to a metal statue of a beer-swilling guy in Prague. Others are catalogued in my brain for the rest of my life and they’ll always contribute to the way I feel about a place I’ve been.
As much as I love technology and thrive upon it, there’s a time to step away from it. There’s a time to experience life.