Selfie stick ban points the lens at rule-breakers

Can we all think back to the prehistoric days of travel when, if we actually wanted to be in a picture, we had to have someone else take it for us?

Those days are gone. With the rise of cell phone cameras and selfie sticks, we can now take and be in the picture.

But at many major tourist attractions, that’s becoming more difficult.

Why? Selfie sticks are being banned.

It’s an impressive list and growing quickly. Among the banning locales are Disney theme parks, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Lollapalooza Music Festival and soccer stadiums in England, Brazil and Australia.

Our friends at Travel Leaders Group recently surveyed American travelers about dilemmas they face. Part of the survey centered on selfie sticks. The results tell us something about how well Americans follow rules and how they might respond when faced with selfie stick-related situations.

Travel Leaders Group asked 3,371 consumers, “If you knew it was prohibited and you saw another tourist taking photos with a selfie stick, what would you do?” They reported the results as:

Say something directly to the person: 8.90 percent
Tell a security guard or official personnel: 31.2 percent
Say nothing: 33.7 percent
Not sure: 26.2 percent

It is interesting to note that almost 60 percent of respondents would either say nothing or were not sure what they would do. Maybe some people don’t want to get involved. Maybe they’re afraid that if they say something they’ll end up in a conflict with the person breaking the rules. Maybe some don’t care about the rules.

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Regardless of the why, it tells us that a majority of people don’t want to report a rule breaker or haven’t thought about what they would do in that circumstance.

What would you do? Clearly, if a rule is in place prohibiting selfie sticks, there is a good reason, right? Such as:

Intrusion into the personal space of those around the selfie stick user
Lack of awareness that someone using a selfie stick could cause injury
Disruption of an amusement park ride

But what if you were the person with the selfie stick? Travel Leaders Group asked that question as well: “If you were taking photos in a location that banned selfie sticks, what would you do?” The results:

I don’t own a selfie stick, so it’s not a problem: 78.5 percent
I’d still try to use my selfie stick and hope not to get caught: 0.50 percent
I’d abide by the rules and not use my selfie stick: 18.8 percent
Not sure 2.30: percent

(Note: I realize this equals 100.1 percent, but I’m just reporting their results.)

Several bits of data are encouraging from these answers. First, 78.5 percent of those surveyed do not own selfie sticks. That’s great news.

Second, of the 21.5 percent of people who own a selfie stick, only 0.5 percent say they would try to use it and not get caught. Another 18.8 percent say they’d obey the rules. I’m actually surprised so few Americans say they’d try to break the rule and not get caught. Aren’t we known as rule breakers?

So what can we learn from this survey?

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You don’t actually need a selfie stick. With nicknames like the “wand of narcissism” or the “narcisstick,” it’s better to leave it on the store shelf.

Americans are not real big when it comes to tattling on rulebreakers. Americans might be better rule followers than I thought. Selfie sticks are a nuisance.

So what would you do? Are you a selfie stick rule-obeyer? Would you tell on someone in this or a similar situation where the rules are being broken? Do you follow the rules?

Would you use a selfie stick in a location that bans them?

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Kent Lawrence

Kent Lawrence is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He is a husband, father to two, executive pastor, travel enthusiast and sometime writer. You can contact him at

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “Regardless of the why, it tells us that a majority of people don’t want to report a rule breaker or haven’t thought about what they would do in that circumstance.”

    It doesn’t actually tell you that at all. This wasn’t a generic question about reporting rule breakers but a specific example. Of the 33% who said they’d do nothing how many said that because they didn’t think a selfie stick ban was worthy of their concern? You’d likely get far different results with a different example. You think a full third would do nothing if they saw somebody crawling over the railing at the Golden Gate Bridge?

    To me the rather surprising part is a solid 40% were either going to confront the person directly or report them for what amounts to a pretty minor violation. That speaks to a high degree of annoyance with selfie sticks or a big chunk of people who hate rule breakers in general.

  • sirwired

    I’m pretty sure that 33% of people think a selfie stick is sufficiently obvious that if the staff really wanted to do something about it, they would.

    Speaking for myself, I would not bother to report mere possession or use of a selfie stick, but I would report it if said person was bonking into other guests with it, blocking things, etc.

    On another note: I can understand the motivation behind having pictures with something other than the same picture hundreds of thousands of other tourists have taken, but fer pete’s sake, grow a proverbial pair and ask somebody to take the picture for you! The picture will be better, and you won’t look like a narcissistic clown.

  • Bill___A

    Given the fact that 40% of people don’t report a smoker when they light up where they shouldn’t, I doubt there would be an equal or greater amount that would confront or report someone using a selfie stick themselves. I don’t own a selfie stick but don’t see it as a huge problem. They need to be used in a safe way.

  • James

    Just FYI… You wrote “Second, of the 21.5 percent of people who own a selfie stick, only 0.5 percent…” That 0.5% is of the entire sample population. It is 2.3% of the 21.5%.

  • John Keahey

    I would say something to the selfie-stick user, whether there are rules against or not, only if the user was getting in my way or detracting from the experience. And if any of you ever see me using a selfie stick, please have me see a mental-health practitioner; I’ve gone over the edge and have become a tourist rather than a traveler. ;)

  • KanExplore

    There are times and places where it isn’t a good idea to hand your camera or phone to a stranger. Still I think your explanation is correct. There are battles worth choosing, and others that can well be left to the staff the engage in.

  • pauletteb

    The term “selfie stick” says it all. On my recent trip to Niagara Falls, I got bumped into twice and witnessed several other visitors being bumped or otherwise inconvenienced by people who considered taking pictures of themselves more important than others’ enjoyment of the sights.

  • pauletteb

    I’m more than happy to report smokers and anyone else who thinks he/she is above the rules.

  • pauletteb


  • just me

    Make them obtain a photo license, charge at least $40 for the privilege and have them pass stick safety exams. Monetize their behaviour. Yeh!
    I am hereby copyrighting my walking stick to which I attach the camera holder? Try to take that one form me.

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