The Fidget Spinner Is Not Dangerous
Another day, another insane interpretation of an inoffensive random thing along political lines.
The New Yorker recently published an article called “The Fidget Spinner is the Perfect Toy for the Trump Presidency” and the logic, if it’s not supposed to be totally tongue in cheek, is crazy. I’ll let the writer, Ms. Rebecca Mead, speak for herself:
“The fidget spinner, it could be argued, is the perfect toy for the age of Trump. Unlike the Tamagotchi, it does not encourage its owner to take anyone else’s feelings or needs into account. Rather, it enables and even encourages the setting of one’s own interests above everyone else’s. It induces solipsism, selfishness, and outright rudeness. It does not, as the Rubik’s Cube does, reward higher-level intellection. Rather, it encourages the abdication of thought, and promotes a proliferation of mindlessness, and it does so at a historical moment when the President has proved himself to be pathologically prone to distraction and incapable of formulating a coherent idea.”
The fidget spinner, for those who are unaware, is a small device designed to help children with ADHD that has recently become a faddish pocket accessory for Instagram people. Its only function is to spin, and the combined addictiveness and ultimate pointlessness of the object has made it kind of the perfect meme toy; equal parts hated and loved for pretty much the same reasons.
There are lots of things to say about the fidget spinner, some of thing negative, but I’m pretty confident that it is nowhere near as nefarious as Rebecca Mead presumes it to be.
First of all, a toy like the fidget spinner is not without precedent. A stress ball is an even less complex version of the fidget spinner, as is that spiky board thing from our youths. Society has always been awash with semi-pointless objects, and the fact that one is becoming temporarily popular should not be any cause for alarm.
Second, I’m sure a lot of liberal Buzzfeed people fucking love the fidget spinner. It’s not some kind of mind-stunting redneck amulet that is linked, culturally, in any way to Trump supporters. It’s not relevant to conservatism, nor is it relevant to political parties, nor is it basically relevant in any way outside of its ubiquity (which is mostly illusory anyway).
Also, the fidget spinner does not do literally any of the things that Ms. Mead says it does. Induces solipsism, selfishness, and outright rudeness? What the fuck is she talking about? I seriously doubt that anybody has ever been prompted to “rudeness” out of playing with a fidget spinner. I cannot imagine that scenario at all. Would that be ignoring your friend by just staring at the spinner instead? Because that’s not how the toy works; if it doesn’t require any intellectual attention, as Mead states, then it can’t be captivating enough to completely block out the world like that. And contrary to what she implies, the spinner is designed to make people less distracted; you play with the spinner to reduce the mind-noise that would normally divert you to, say, your phone, which is a way worse distraction than the fidget spinner has the potential to be, and predates President Trump by a long, long time.
Also, what about something like transcendental meditation? I’m sure Mead wouldn’t say that mantras are some kind of mental roadblock, despite the fact that TM is designed to promote “an abdication of thought” and “proliferation of mindlessness”. Meditation is really just a means of uncluttering your mind in the exact same way that the fidget spinner is. There’s no difference at all, the fidget spinner just doesn’t have the same kind of mystic vibe since it’s used primarily by 12-year-olds.
The fact of the matter is, Rebecca Mead has written a cartoon of an essay, and pretty much demonstrated in a nutshell why most people do not take intellectuals seriously. The fidget spinner is such an inane foundation for a political rant that it makes liberal people look crazy, like conspiracy theorists sniffing around innocuous garbage looking for clues on the nature of our “cultural decline” that are never there. Articles like this delegitimize such opinions by obsessing over frivolous, barely relevant issues and trying to build an unsubstantiated point on them, rather than taking some kind of grounded, non-fear-mongering stance that has at least some elements of seriousness. Mead’s piece is not a serious at all, but it’s in the New Yorker and it’s not satire (as far as I can tell), and therefore, it’s basically clickbait but in the fancy “Cultural Comment” section of a famous magazine. If we’re playing “spot the cultural trend that is making everybody stupid”, I think I might know of a better target than the fidget spinner.