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An extreme selfie stick in action at CES this week.
An extreme selfie stick in action at CES this week.

When I showed my brother my new extendable Bluetooth-enabled smartphone camera pole thingy over the holidays, I hoped he’d think it was cool.

“Oh, you mean a selfie stick?” he said, and laughed.

A “selfie” stick? I thought, new to the term. No! That’s not what this it at all! I’m going to use it to get better pictures, I told him. Better angles. I’m going to get a photo of the whole table at Christmas dinner.

“Right,” he said. “‘Cause it’s a selfie stick.”

OK, so maybe I own a selfie stick. I do. I do own a selfie stick. But we all take selfies, don’t we? And our arms aren’t long enough. And our chins look chubby. And we can’t fit all our friends.

My selfie stick on my dashboard, where it sits abandoned and alone.
My selfie stick on my dashboard, where it sits abandoned and alone.

Why mock an everyday behavior only when someone uses a tool to do it?

Because, friends and followers assure me, there are some tools you’d use only if you do something too much.

“You know what they’re like?” my husband said. “The roller backpacks in high school.”

OK, I guess I follow that. If you use a roller backpack, you’re the nerd carrying too many books.

“A selfie stick,” Seattle’s Curt Milton tweeted, “is God’s way of telling you you’re taking too many selfies.”

Seattlepi.com photographer Josh Trujillo and Seattle Times photographer Genevieve Alvarez use monopods to elevate their cameras above the crowds during the 2014 Seahawks victory parade. (Photo: Daniel Berman Photography)
Seattlepi.com photographer Josh Trujillo and Seattle Times photographer Genevieve Alvarez use monopods to elevate their cameras above the crowds during the 2014 Seahawks victory parade. (Photo: Daniel Berman Photography)

If that’s true, then the ranks of the modern-day narcissists are swelling. Selfie sticks are all over Manhattan, where so many people are snapping pics with the things that the New York Times just devoted a whole article to their rise and Times media critic David Carr seemed sure that our “séance with the self is only going to grow.”

Time magazine named the selfie stick one of the best inventions of 2014. At CES, the devices are the subject of a Wired.com challenge: “Best selfie with a selfie stick taking a selfie.”

Seattlepi.com photographer Josh Trujillo saw the things poke out of crowds from Rockefeller Center to the 9/11 Memorial when he took his family to New York for New Year’s last week.

“It almost looks like a new way to carry your phone,” he said.

Associations aside, Trujillo can’t deny that, as a tool for taking better pictures, selfie sticks are “fantastic.” Remember that shot of Marshawn Lynch tossing Skittles from the Duck at last year’s Seahawks parade? Trujillo took that with his heavy-duty camera monopod. Same idea as a selfie stick, except it holds a big camera and has been around forever. Oh, and he never points it at himself.

Marshawn Lynch scatters Skittles into the crowd during the Seahawks victory parade. (Photo: Josh Trujillo, Seattlepi.com. And his monopod)
Marshawn Lynch scatters Skittles into the crowd during the Seahawks victory parade. (Photo: Josh Trujillo, Seattlepi.com. And his monopod)

As I thought about writing this column, I knew I had to talk to Jolene Jang (a GeekWire Geek of the Week). She’s the first person I ever saw carry a phone on a stick — gleefully, I might add — at some Seattle tech event years ago. I remember asking her about it, but holding back on one question:

Does she ever feel weird walking around with this?

As it turns out, it’s just the opposite.

“I feel naked without it,” she said.

Seattle's Jolene Jang posts videos on how to use camera sticks and has made them part of her business. (Photo courtesy of Jolene Jang)
Seattle’s Jolene Jang posts videos on how to use camera sticks and has made them part of her business. (Photo courtesy of Jolene Jang)

Jang started using her camera stick — that’s what she’s always called it — six years ago. They were a scarce novelty back then and she wanted to more easily capture scenes from her travels. She loved what she could do with them enough to start selling them herself. Now she fills her YouTube channels with camera stick videos and interviews as part of her conference and events business.

It was about six months ago that Jang noticed a spike in interest in camera sticks, and the term “selfie stick” begin to win out. She added the term to her sites to improve SEO, but finds the “selfie” tag pretty limiting, she said.

I have to agree. I didn’t buy an extendable Bluetooth-enabled smartphone camera pole thingy just to include myself in the picture.

But it is a nice perk.

So. Is the selfie stick a harbinger of narcissistic doom? A handy tool for a rising form?

The title of Medium writer Lindsey Weber’s post on the devices about sums it up: “You will mock, then purchase a selfie stick.”

I did want a selfie stick. I do own a selfie stick.

Now I’ve got to figure out if I’m actually going to use it.

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