Selfie sticks not only make you look silly and self indulgent—they can also put you in danger.
At least that’s the growing consensus amongst owners of popular Chubu tourist sites, parks and other venues. On Monday The Japan Times reported that more and more venues are banning the trendy accessories, which are attached to users’ phones and allow them to hold the devices from further afar, and thus more readily snap “selfie” portraits with wider backgrounds. The article quoted a representative from Nagashima Resort, who voiced both safety and privacy concerns about the extendable gizmo, saying: “The sticks might hit other users in the pool by accident, and they could be used to snap secret pictures… On some attractions, we fear that the sticks might touch the safety alarm system, causing the rides to stop.”
Meanwhile, Aichi Prefecture’s Japan Monkey Centre prohibits selfie sticks from being used anywhere near its apes. One staff member said the rule is necessary because “We have electric fences around the area, so there’s a risk of getting an electric shock if the stick touches the fence… Besides, the monkeys might try to jump on the sticks, which is also dangerous.”
However, other venue owners are very much in favor of these obnoxious, elongated, narcissist appendages. An official at Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens explains that visitors like to use selfie sticks in order to better take self portraits with giraffes, elephants and other animals that may not be visible with a tighter angled photo snapped at arm’s length. The official added that the selfie sticks also help the facility reach a new level of marketing, explaining: “We have not received any reports of trouble, so we do not see the need to ban them for the time being. Visitors are uploading photos to their SNS accounts and such moves are helping us promote our facility,” said an official of the zoo.
Japan is not the only country engaged in this contentious selfie debate. The topic actually seems to be hottest in the United States. On Aug. 14 My Northwest reported that Louisiana’s Evergreen State Fair will ban selfie sticks, despite having a “picture the fun” theme that encourages budding shutterbugs to snap photos of the event and post them on social media. The co-ordinator’s stance, dubbed a “conundrum” by the article’s author, was broken down by fairgrounds manager Hal Gausman, who explained: “We want everyone to be taking pictures, but we don’t want them to have the camera at the end of the stick and hitting other people over the head… That’s been our dilemma, but it comes down to a safety issue.”
Meanwhile, the University of Michigan announced a selfie stick ban on Aug. 12, according to WXYZ News, with an additional clause that bars drones from taking photos, leaving readers of that article to equate the extendable cellphone accessory to a flying robot used for spy missions, in terms of evasiveness. Fox News also reports that Disney parks around the world, popular music festivals like Lollapalooza and revered holy grounds like the Sistine Chapel and Mecca have also banned the sticks, and the same goes for China’s Forbidden City, according to the Telegraph. But Hong Kong seems far friendlier to the long reaching monopod, with three local teens boasting that they had taken the most daring selfie stick snap of all time atop a lofty skyscraper.
The public’s love-hate relationship with selfie sticks has become so far-reaching, in fact, that Pizza Hut poked fun at the safety issues and self absorption that ensues with the use of a selfie stick in its latest marketing campaign for a an extra wide pie that, fittingly enough, has the diameter equal to the length of many selfie sticks. It remains to be seen if Japanese fast food joints will also use the adopt the cell phone sticks into their own advertising.
But Japanese firms may not need to go to such lengths in order to attain selfie infamy. In fact, recent evidence suggests Japanese shutterbugs may be the original selfie stick users, thanks to a recent Tokyo Desu article that republished a three decade old ad for what appears to be a selfie stick attached to a now obsolete point and shoot camera. At the time it was called “the extender,” but, unfortunately, it failed to extend its way into the hearts and minds of consumers like its newer counterpart—Tokyo Desu describes how the product “ultimately flopped,” before adding that: “Japanese magazines are picking up the resurfaced evidence of the invention as a point of national pride; gloating that Japan did it first. Which, in a perfect world, would be more reason for national embarrassment than anything.”