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By Dayrius Tay
We live in an age of miniaturisation where people covet the tiny over the massive. Gone are the days where computers were the size of refrigerators and speakers that took up the entire table. This inexplicable obsession extends far beyond the realm of the functional and into the absurd. Meet the fidget spinner, another piece of junk in a long list of fads that have taken the world by storm. Though, to its credit, the fidget spinner is the lesser of the evils when put side by side with the likes of compulsively collecting country erasers or pointlessly flipping half-filled disposable bottles.
This strange contraption was invented by Scott McCoskery in 2014 to cope with his own fidgeting in IT meetings and conference calls, and he started production after requests from the online community. As cheap knock-offs spawned, Scott filed for a patent in 2016. Its meteoric rise to prominence began when Forbes published an article declaring the fidget spinner as the “must-have office toy for 2017”. This caught the attention of social media users, who proceeded to upload reviews and guides for the toy. Popularity surged in April, and now it appears that virtually all primary school students either own or desire one.
The response from educators has been mixed, with most Singaporean schools doing what our nation has been known for: outright banning it. One of the teachers this author spoke to described it as a “distraction” that not all students should be permitted to use. Apparently, for many pupils, the fidget spinner has become the primary focus rather than a background one, diverting most of their attention away from the task at hand.
The spinner this writer owns is some budget design hailing from China (where else) and costs 15 times less than the original, in the same vein as previous ‘inspired’ Chinese products such as iPhone lookalikes and imitation handbags. The fidget spinner owned by this writer consists of three weighted extensions to increase angular momentum connected via a bearing to a central circular pad for holding. The design is optimised to increase spin time through using heavy materials in the extensions (bronze). The sole ‘function’ of this device is, as the name suggests, is to spin. It spins while held, spins while thrown, spins while on a surface, among other variations. That is, if this silly gyrating object serves any purpose at all. While writing this article, this author found the device to divert attention away from work while bringing no perceptible benefits in attention span or alertness. It truly seems like the device exists exclusively as a time waster yet is marketed under the guise of an attention-boosting innovation.
As with most fads, the initial enthusiasm will wear out when all customisation options have been exhausted. Other possible reasons are the device’s widespread adoption causes enthusiasts to no longer see it as unique or ‘edgy’, thus losing its novelty factor. Research on fads find that they often lose their appeal just as quickly as they gained it. In other words, the fidget spinner will eventually go the way of Pokemon Go and other tired trends, fading gradually into oblivion.