the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Selfie Stick: The Final Curtain

The New York City of today is not the same New York City of my past. Technology has changed everything. No one reads the newspaper on the subway. Everyone is on their smartphone, living their virtual life.   In fact, you can do anything now from the privacy of your mobile device – ordering food, buying a book, hailing a cab, finding a date. In what was once the most public-oriented city in the country, I’ve seen co-workers sitting together at lunch in a café, silently updating their Facebooks and Twitters, and singles in crowded bars, ignoring each other while sexting with strangers on Tindr. Interaction with strangers, once a social necessity of urban life, has become an antique from the past, like the payphone or Smith-Corona typewriter.

One public exchange that remains intact, despite the infiltration of technology into our daily life, is the age-old interplay between tourist and local.   New York City is a tourist city, and despite the reputation of New Yorkers as rude, most residents are glad to help the visitor navigate the five boroughs.  After all, New York is an international city, the home of the United Nations, where dialogue between different cultures is essential to the survival of the world.

Just today, I was on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art eating a hot dog when I noticed a young Japanese couple taking photos of each other with an iPhone.   The man snapped a photo of his girlfriend posing with a black hat and dark sunglasses, as if she was a movie star, then the woman took a photo of her boyfriend pointing up the stairs to the entrance way, as if he was a Greek sculpture.

This was the time for me to jump into action, doing what was expected of me as a resident of New York. I was about to do something that I had seen done by both my father and my grandfather, a social gesture passed down from generation to generation,  a symbol of  the interconnectivity of all people.

“Would you like me to take a photo of you together?” I asked, trying to look as confident and trustworthy as possible.

“No. No. No need.” said the woman.   She reached into her purse and  pulled out what looked like a retractable fishing rod, but later found out was called “a selfie stick.” She placed the iPhone at the tip of the metal stick, like bait, and then held it out so the phone was now several feet away, facing them, with the museum in the background.   The couple made kissy-poo faces at the camera, and she pressed a button on the stick to take the photo.  Snap.

The selfie stick. One more tradition dead – the asking of tourists to take their photo.   Once a noble gesture, now as old-fashioned as wearing a girdle.

Finally, the last reason to talk to strangers in the city.   Gone.



  1. Ms. Moon

    Dear god. I am ready to die now.
    Okay, not really but honestly- this just sucks the big donkey dick.

  2. Emily

    Tell me you made this up.

  3. GrandeMocha

    I don’t know if they make them for my phone. I STILL NEED YOU!

  4. Jillwrites

    The end is nigh. I’m making a blog comment. Over & out. #gorillapod

  5. Linda Kuriloff

    Sometimes when someone asks if my husband and I want them to take our picture I almost want to do it for the sake of human contact, but he’s got the “selfie” thing down, even without the stick, and doesn’t want to get someone else involved.

  6. Sarah Gilbert

    I had some customers at pedal bike tours bring out a selfie stick. I almost refused to join in their picture documenting their vacation on principle but decided to use snide comments instead. ‘Is there a hash tag for my first time with a selfie stick?’ I asked.

    you’ll be pleased to know there are still a lot of requests for me to take people’s pictures. I also think the inherent narcissism of the product will destroy it.

  7. Aussa Lorens

    Asking strangers if I can take their photo is one of my favorite things, all ruined now. There’s something creepy about the way I worded that, but I’m too sleepy to go back and edit.

  8. tracy

    Well the next time we visit NYC I will stalk you and make you take our picture. Maybe with our selfie stick. (No worries, we are old and have no idea what a selfie stick is..and my husband might still carry a flip-phone).

  9. Mel

    I had to Google “selfie stick” to see if it was real.

    I think you hit on something scary and important here: “Interaction with strangers, once a social necessity of urban life, has become an antique from the past, like the payphone or Smith-Corona typewriter.” Replace interaction with strangers with interaction with people. Period. Full stop.

  10. Lillian Connelly

    Remember when people would claim someone had been beaten by the ugly stick? Now we are just beaten with the selfie stick, photoshopped to look like a model, and then photoshopped into our vacation destination without ever having to leave home. Forget having to speak to tourists. We won’t even have tourists. Our pictures will all be flawless.

    P.S. I want a selfie stick so I can photograph things other than myself…things that are too tall or maybe under the bed. I’ll never have to bend over again to see what is under there.

  11. The Honourable Husband

    A Selfie Stick? Some of us call that a dildo.

  12. Britt Reints

    It’s called an x-shot and it isn’t new at all. Been around for years. Predates the term selfie even.

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