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August 20, 2017

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What the Spinner really teaches us

The rise of the spinner was spectacular, and its fall even more so.


The first time that I saw one in action, it was expertly spinning in the hands of a 13-year old, surrounded by a group of admiring friends. He flipped it one way, then the other; still spinning, he balanced it nonchalantly on his knee as he chatted to his friends.


Within a few days the whirring, spinning devices had spread from the cool kids to nearly all kids. It was then that my eight-year old asked, ‘Daddy, can I have a spinner?’, and soon my two-year old was trying to flick and spin.


Ubiquitous as the fidgety things had become, I dismissed them as another young craze. We’d had yo-yo’s and tamagotchis, I thought, so why shouldn’t they have spinners?


As it turned out, that was a bad mistake. I had underestimated the power of the spinner which soon conquered the adult world as well. Suddenly, otherwise respectable grownups were enthusiastically spinning and balancing, flipping and whirring.


When the early adopters took it up, it looked frankly insane. Didn’t they care how they looked, carrying on a serious conversation whilst continuing that annoying spinning?


But as more and more people adopted spinning, a curious thing happened to my opinion of spinners. It occurred to me that perhaps there was something more to it than I’d thought. In fact I was now certain that there was. Not having one I felt so 2016. My fingers began itching to try.


Then just as suddenly as they had come, spinners were gone. We reached ‘peak spin’ and the bubble burst. The signs were everywhere. The cheap knockoffs flooding the market; 2-for-1 deals on spinners; even Avis promoting rentals through spinners.


As the bottom dropped out of the market, everyone – men, women and children – stopped spinning. As spinners sat forlornly on store counters, I again saw them for what they really were: pieces of junk.


Why do I dwell on the brief half-life of an annoying toy?


Because it’s a good example of a dynamic that affects us all in more ways than we realise.


Society constantly offers us shiny new toys in the shape of trends in food, fashion and ideas. Our tastes in all areas are radically different from just a few years ago.


Here’s the catch. Some of these innovations, particularly in the area of right and wrong, are harmful. And at first sight, that’s how they appear to us. But then comes the ‘spinner effect.’ As more and more people adopt these attitudes, our own thinking magically evolves. One day we wake up and the morally unthinkable is our new normal.


The fidget spinner is dead and buried. It bears thinking whether future generations will look at our moral choices as they will at our spinners. It could well be that they’ll scratch their heads – wondering how we fell for a gaudy piece of junk.  



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