I heard a report on the radio the other day about the many venues and recreation centers that were banning the infamous “selfie stick.” If you haven’t yet been introduced to the device, the selfie stick (or photo arm) helps a person take a better-framed picture of herself. Amusement parks have banned them on rides for safety reasons. Several music festivals have banned their use completely because they obstructed the view of the musicians on stage. Jason Gilbert, a technology editor for Yahoo Tech, has compiled a comprehensive list of places that have banned the selfie stick. Gilbert promises to update the list regularly. If you’re an avid selfie stick user, you may want to check out the list before planning your summer vacation.
In the radio report, the announcer proposed a suggestion for people to avoid selfie stick withdrawal. “When you want to take a selfie and you can’t use your selfie stick, ask a passerby to lend you a hand.” The suggestion may seem incredulous to some but that’s the way people used to take photos at monuments or state parks or museums. We would ask someone nearby to give a hand. Now with photo arms, remotes and built-in countdown timers, we’re trying to be independent. It’s kind of funny that in the new “sharing culture,” we’re sharing a lot less. Sure, we’re sharing photos of the celebrities we see or the places we visit. But this is a different kind of sharing. I’m talking about the sharing of time and talent instead of the sharing for self-promotion or envy.
Along the way, we’ve lost some of the sharing. I hope I don’t sound like a crotchety old guy. It’s not really my intention. Instead, I want to shine a light on the aspects of our culture and society that we lose through the incorporation of technology. Every time a new tool or technology is introduced, loads of people focus on the features and functionality we gain. Routines become more efficient and streamlined. We gain new powers and new routes to communication. But we also lose some things in return.
A friend of mine completed three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan over a seven or eight year period. After his last tour, we were discussing how much he was able to use Skype while he was stationed overseas. He said that it provided comfort to his family to see his face and hear his voice regularly. “But,” he said, “I don’t have a single letter from this tour. After the other tours, my wife and I made a scrapbook of all of our letters to each other. This tour, I don’t have a single one.” With technology, we gain. And we lose.
I don’t have a solution to avoid the losses we experience from the incorporation and evolution of new technologies. Maybe those losses are things we can’t fight even if we try. Instead, I want to shine a light on the loss and help us do better at recognizing the changes that are happening around us. We don’t need to mourn the loss. But maybe we can do a better job of accounting for it.