Remember in like, 2008, when your best hope for taking a front-facing picture with a friend was to flip your first generation iPhone around, say a quick prayer to the god of good lighting and sharp angles, and smile-cringe into the soulless black lens of the 8 megapixel camera that never seemed to give you exactly what you wanted?
Yeah, I try not to either.
Enter the iPhone 4 in 2010: a new decade with a game-changing new iPhone to match. ‘Game-changing’ is the obvious word choice here, for the iPhone 4, unlike its predecessors, came with not one but two cameras. The original intention behind this revolutionary front-facing camera was to better enable video-chatting services like Skype and FaceTime.Yet, the front-facing camera ended up deviating from Apple’s (usually) deviation-friendly script by feeding right into the narcissism of an entire generation.
Yes, in 2010, Apple users across the world began fearlessly taking pictures of– you guessed it– themselves. This coincided perfectly with the birth of Instagram, the now-famous, ego-friendly photography app that also happened to launch in 2010. Front-facing cameras and trendy filters that make you look better than you actually do? It was almost too much for narcissist Millennials (millicists? narcennials?) to handle.
Since 2010, we’ve come a long way. “Selfies” quickly became the newest Big Thing, with “#selfie” constantly trending worldwide on social media giants like Instagram and Twitter. Apple, being smarter than the average bear tech company, worked tirelessly to improve the quality of the iPhone 4’s front-facing camera, which, for all of its popularity, wasn’t even one megapixel and could only handle a 480p VGA video. (In case you’re wondering, the iPhone 6 has a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera with 720p HD video recording, backside illumination, enhanced face detection, exposure control, automatic high dynamic range, and a timer mode.)
In August 2013, “selfie” was added to OxfordDictionaries.com. In May 2015, the ever-so-humble Kim Kardashian West bestowed Selfish upon us, an Amazon customer-certified two star work of . . . something . . . that includes 352 pages’ worth of Kim’s favorite selfies. What a time to be alive.
But Selfish isn’t the wildest thing to hit the selfie market. Not by far. No, that title has been claimed by the advent of the selfie stick, which has also been dubbed “the wand of Narcissus.”
What exactly is a selfie stick? Well, for those of you living under rocks, a selfie stick is a monopod with an extendable metal arm that allows smart phone users to take selfies from a distance that surpasses an arm’s length. No one person alone is accredited with the invention of the selfie stick; the “Quik Pod,” a similar device that was patented by Canadian inventor Wayne Fromm in 2005, unsurprisingly failed to capture any consumer attention. Given how easy selfie sticks are to manufacture, various types of phone-holding rods have been for sale across the United States since 2011. You can find them today in your local drugstore.
Selfie sticks were, and still are, quite the rage. The stick even made the cut for Time magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of 2014. In 2015, however, we are starting to see something that wasn’t present in early 2014: pushback. A significant number famous places and attractions around the world have banned, or are currently in the process of banning, the selfie stick and all associated orgulous-ness.
Here is a list of seven of such locations, along with the various bits of reasoning behind the respective bans:
1. Location: Walt Disney World
Reason: “Harmful and disruptive”
Walt Disney World, which announced its decision on June 26, 2015, is the latest attraction to ban selfie sticks. Disney considers them to be potentially “harmful and disruptive,” and not without precedent: just last week, a roller coaster was halted and consequently completely shut down for an hour at California’s Disneyland Resort when someone (a narcennial, presumably) whipped out a selfie stick mid-ride. The ban is effective across all Disney theme parks, which includes not only Disneyland Resort and Florida’s Disney World, but Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Disneyquest, and all Disney water parks as well. As of June 30 in the U.S. and July 1 abroad, visitors and their bags will be checked for selfie sticks, which, if found, can be ticketed for end-of-the-day pickup.
2. Location: Wimbledon
Reason: Irritating; unnecessarily distracting
Just in time for Wimbledon 2015, the All England Lawn Tennis Club has banned selfie sticks from the grounds of the oldest and most prestigious of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments. A spokesman for the Club told the Sunday Times that the ban stems from the sticks’ “nuisance value” and “interference with spectator enjoyment.” My friend Allie Kiick, who is an up-and-coming professional American tennis player, and I were recently informed as much when we were inspired to semi-shamefully purchase a selfie stick along with international SIM cards in London. Allie had made it into the Wimbledon Qualifying Tournament (winning three matches in the qualifying is a ticket into the Main Draw); the man who rang us up at the phone store took notice of our mandatory Wimbledon-approved “all-white kits” and tennis racquets and said, “Are you sure you still want to buy these? You know they’re banned at Wimbledon this year.” (We managed to put it to good use.)
3. Location(s): Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Ultra
Reason: Annoying; encourages unauthorized concert recordings
Selfie sticks, or, in accordance with their Coachella nickname, “narcisstics,” are on the prohibited items list for all three of these music and arts festival giants. Miami, Florida’s Ultra, famous for its status as one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world, tweeted in March in regard to any selfie sticks that concert-goers might bring with them: “They [selfie sticks] will be turned away and we’ll probably make fun of you.”
4. Location(s): Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. (yes, all 19 of them); Basically Every Art Museum Ever
Reason: To ensure the “protection of visitors and objects, especially in crowded conditions;” invasion of personal space
From the African American History and Culture Museum to the American Art Museum and the National Zoo, selfie sticks are no longer allowed in any Smithsonian institution, all 19 of which combine to create the world’s largest museum and research complex. The Smithsonian museums and galleries received a conglomerate total of over 28 million visitors last year alone; as of December, 2014, these visitors are now allowed to bring selfie sticks inside so long as they remain safely stowed away in backpacks or bags. While they may not be necessarily disruptive in an art museum, they do have the potential to damage priceless relics and works of art.
The list of art museums around the world that have banned selfie sticks is seemingly infinite. Many of these museums, especially those that are excessively crowded on a day to day basis, are claiming that taking selfies from “three times arm’s length” is encroaching upon the personal space of other visitors. In the United States, some of the ban-issued museums that you might be most familiar with include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim (all of which are in New York City), Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Art Institute of Chicago, Seattle Art Museum, Getty Center in Los Angeles, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Cleveland Museum of Art, and Dallas Museum of Art. International museums with selfie stick bans include the National Gallery in London, Albertina in Austria, National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, and Hermitage Amsterdam. Surprisingly, the Louvre in Paris, France has yet to ban selfie sticks, so the next time you’re in France, make sure to snap a selfie stick #selfie with the Mona Lisa– before it’s too late.
5. Location: Brazilian Soccer Stadiums
Reason: Potential use as weapons
Brazilians sure do get fired up about soccer. So fired up, apparently, that soccer stadiums across this South American country fear that selfie sticks might evolve from photography devices into weapons, ripe for the using in fights between rival fans. For similar reasons, selfie sticks are slowly beginning to join darts, knives, and fireworks on the prohibited items list for European football stadiums as well. Manchester United, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur have all issued official bans as of January 2015.
6. Location: The Kentucky Derby
Reason: “Dangerous and/or inappropriate”
Unfortunately for the 160,000 fans, moguls, celebrities, and horseracing affiliates who pack into Churchill Downs every first Saturday in May to place bets, sip mint juleps, and bear witness to the “Two Greatest Minutes in Sports,” selfie sticks, unlike those large, flowery hats, are no longer considered to be viable forms of accessorization. The Kentucky Derby banned selfie sticks (and drones) for its 2015 race as well as all future races, citing their concern for the safety of Derby patrons, horses, horsemen, and horse staff members.
7. Location: (the entire country of) South Korea
Reason: Health concerns; interference with other electronics
In late 2014, the South Korean government announced its mission to crack down on selfie sticks. The government plans to hunt down and prosecute any individuals selling unregulated selfie sticks; the punishment for doing so can involve up to 3 years in prison and/or a fine of 30 million won, which is the rough equivalent of $26,800. Under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, all Bluetooth-equipped devices must be first certified for national use on the grounds that they have detrimental health effects. The Korean Times additionally reported that The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning claims that Bluetooth enabled selfie sticks in fact result in the malfunctioning in other electronic devices. Who knew.