Fidget spinners, Pokemon Go and hula hoops: How does something become a fad?

18 May 2017
Fidget spinner

This article originally appeared in the ABC News Online, by author Peter Marsh, on 18th May 2017. 

Fidget spinners are the hottest trend at the moment.

The small spinning toys, which were initially pitched as a way to help children with ADHD and autism, have exploded in popularity in classrooms around the world.

In fact, it's happened so quickly that if you're out of the loop, you're probably left scratching your head.

How does something so simple go from obscurity to become the latest fad?

It's probably because of FOMO

That is, "fear of missing out".

Chris Hodkinson, a senior lecturer in consumer behaviour at the University of Queensland Business School, says fads are driven by our fear of not being a part of the "in" crowd.

"It's such a huge driver. [Students are] so frightened of missing out on something," Dr Hodkinson said.

"So it probably just turns up the volume knob on a fairly meaningless fad like this.

"Since these devices (fidget spinners) were originally designed for ADHD students, no doubt some students had them at school and other people saw them and thought they were cool and then the thing started to run away with itself."

Social media has turbocharged how fads can take off

Dr Hodkinson said the invention of the telephone began the rapid spread of information (like calling your friend to tell them about a cool thing called the hula hoop).

"And [social media] is just the whole thing on steroids," he said.

"Improved communication by the electronic media tends to accelerate the spread and the visibility of things and make them become fads."

If you're a hater, you're probably helping a fad spread

It's basic human nature. The more someone says you can't have the thing, the more you are likely to want the thing.

This is especially true for kids who want to be a part of the "rebellious set", according to Dr Hodkinson.

"That makes [fads] even cooler and even more socially desirable," he said.

You can read the full article here.