Selfie Sticks in Whiteman Country

Here is a look at what stole the show on my European vacation. The selfie stick. I couldn’t stop staring—and usually the user is too self absorbed to notice that I was photographing them.

Spring 2015 Barcelona and Marrakesh II 095

It was my first time out of Africa in two years so I knew some things would seem weird. In Cameroon, to explain where you come from, another name for Europe/America (which might be perceived as the same thing anyway) is “Whiteman Country” which actually succinctly gets the point across. And the main thing I found jarring was the unabashed self absorbed behavior of my peers. The foreignness of this selfie stick made giving it Whiteman Country distinction seem appropriate. Now to be honest, I see Cameroonians in cities taking selfies, but we aren’t connected enough to make it a daily/hourly habit and we certainly don’t need a stick to do it. Maybe this behavior just a human thing, and we didn’t used to have technology that afforded us the chance to make it so obvious. I never liked selfies, they always seemed contentedly narcissistic but the selfie stick makes a lifestyle out of this.

Spring 2015 Barcelona and Marrakesh 601

I asked someone staying at my hostel what the point of them was, and he replied “Well, you don’t want to just hand your phone to someone, what if they steal it?”. I thought, but what did we do before selfie sticks? 1) It’s a mathematically irrational fear and 2) this is one more reason for people to isolate themselves more and not talk to “strangers”. I hate everything selfie sticks stand more.

I get irritated sitting next to a couple oscillating between taking a selfie and ignoring each other in favor of their phone. It’s tacky and it has become a part of our culture. How about trying this: put your phone down and be present.

Spain 2015 115

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