Finicky fidget fads fade


George Hasara – Columnist

Remember the Fidget Spinner? Correct that, do you remember the “anti-anxiety” Fidget Spinner? The multi-prong spinning hand-held toy rotated onto the scene all of two years ago and for a blip of time was a national obsession. This toy was so awesome that it made people forget about the phenomenal phone app known as Pokemon Go.

In our lifetimes, we have witnessed countless fads come and go, with some of them Frisbeeing back for a reprise. What better way to achieve instant “hip” status than by embracing a fad? No serious thought is required. Just figure out what everybody else is into and do the same. From food to fashion, who wants to miss out on the opportunity to be cool and “with it?”

The Google dictionary definition of a fad is: “an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities; a craze.” It’s not to say that fads lack any real merit but rather that their popularity is way out of proportion with its actual value. The 1950’s Hula Hoop, with its descendants known today as a fitness hoop or simply a hoop, is a perfectly fine device but it is no longer considered a “must have” piece of plastic. Though the 1990s are long gone, even mullets and women’s shoulder pads still have their place… somewhere.    

The power of fads isn’t restricted to consumer products. Crazes are instrumental in the realm of ideas, and this is where things get interesting and little more serious. People yearn to be part of something bigger than themselves. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the “Jesus Movement” emerged. This incarnation of Christianity wasn’t your grandparent’s religion, and for a while seemed to be a harbinger of things to come. It didn’t quite work out that way, and many of the Jesus Freaks moved on to other movements. No doubt, some of their children and grandchildren would grow up to be today’s hipsters. 

A decade ago, the “limited” government Tea Party movement caught fire. Today, the model of “unlimited” government is all the rage. In the 2012 presidential election cycle, the Republican Ron Paul was embraced by a legion of young people. Four years later, Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders was the darling of the millennials. So, what is at play here? You can’t get more different than libertarian-minded Paul and socialist Sanders. Then again, you can’t get more different than parachute pants and skinny jeans. If a trend is fad-driven, there is no analysis that is going to make sense. 

What were the thought processes in 1996 that lead a person to pay $1,500 for a simple plush toy that happened to have a Tickle Me Elmo tag? I won’t even try to go down the rabbit hole known as Beanie Babies. The point is that fads are not logic-based phenomena, it’s a wave to be ridden until the next one comes along. In a dialogue with a person who has adopted a belief via cultural osmosis, you just may be spinning your Fidget Spinner wheels.

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