ShareThis Page

Kids are over fidget spinners — adults just getting into them

| Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, 8:57 p.m.
A pedestrian demonstrates a fidget spinner at a street vendor stand in New York, U.S., on Friday, May 12, 2017. The fidget spinner is a toy that sits like a propeller on a person's finger, with blades that spin around a bearing.
Bloomberg
A pedestrian demonstrates a fidget spinner at a street vendor stand in New York, U.S., on Friday, May 12, 2017. The fidget spinner is a toy that sits like a propeller on a person's finger, with blades that spin around a bearing.
A shopper browses fidget spinners displayed for sale by a street vendor in New York, U.S., on Friday, May 12, 2017. The fidget spinner is a toy that sits like a propeller on a person's finger, with blades that spin around a bearing. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg.
Bloomberg
A shopper browses fidget spinners displayed for sale by a street vendor in New York, U.S., on Friday, May 12, 2017. The fidget spinner is a toy that sits like a propeller on a person's finger, with blades that spin around a bearing. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg.
Eric (Alex Moffatt) and Donald Trump Jr. (Mikey Day) on 'Weekend Update Summer Edition.'
Eric (Alex Moffatt) and Donald Trump Jr. (Mikey Day) on 'Weekend Update Summer Edition.'
The Kim Kardashian fidget spinner
The Kim Kardashian fidget spinner

You don't always choose the fidget spinner life. Sometimes, it chooses you.

Or so you tell yourself.

When Mark Ventura won a spinner at work, he was pretty unimpressed with his prize. He's an adult. What was he supposed to do with a whirring hunk of plastic that kids on social media were obsessed with?

But then he twirled the three-pronged gizmo a few times, and suddenly the 28-year-old D.C. resident understood. And then he couldn't leave home without it.

“When I'd leave for work, I'd check for my keys, wallet, phone, like normal,” he says. “And then it started to become a part of my routine to also put the fidget spinner in my pocket.”

Now, at the office, he can't keep his hands off the thing. “I call people all day,” says Ventura, founder of the e-commerce website Adoshi.co. “While the phone is ringing, I'll have it out and I'll just be spinning it.” And spinning it. And spinning ...

It was bound to happen: In our Peter Pan culture, it's only a matter of time before a plaything migrates out of the playground and into the world of adulthood. Think coloring books. Think Facebook.

So even as the trend fizzles out among Generation Z, never fear — grown-ups are stepping in to give fidget spinners a whirl. The gadgets have made their way into office buildings, dutifully serving as the mindless activity our restless hands crave.

Pop culture has embraced the phenomenon, a sure sign that it's grown beyond kiddie quarters. Vanessa Bayer played a high-maintenance girlfriend wooed by a diamond-encrusted fidget spinner on “Saturday Night Live” earlier this year. The first installment of that show's “Weekend Update Summer Edition” featured Alex Moffat playing a dimwitted Eric Trump whose brother cunningly distracts him with the toy. The cast of summer flick “Rough Night” played with spinners during an interview with MTV.

Spinner expo

And now comes Fidget SpinnerCon (fidgetspinnerexpo.com), the first-ever expo devoted to the whirling toy. Co-organizer Aaron Martin expects the event, to be held in Minneapolis in October, to attract 300 “fidget spinner enthusiasts” young and old. There also will be competitions.

Martin, 46, initially discovered spinners when his 9-year-old son began collecting them in April.

“Like a lot of dads, I purchased quite a few for him,” the Eden Prairie, Minn., resident says. But then he started seeing “some nicer, solid, more well-made fidget spinners as well. I picked one of those up.” Now he takes it with him on his business travels.

The expo will showcase these “quality” spinners, which can sell for anywhere from $20 to $100, Martin says. His personal spending limit?

“Around $50,” he says, nonchalantly.

That's a serious sum considering that most classic spinners sell for $5 or less — they're usually plastic, after all — though noted rich person Kim Kardashian has sold her own line, characteristically shaped like a dollar sign, for $15 apiece on the Internet.

At their core, of course, fidget toys are hardly a novel concept. The act of twirling a pencil has satisfied generations of antsy cubicle inhabitants, and a sturdy Ticonderoga costs mere pennies. But spinners seem to have a mysterious draw.

“It's just the visual of it and the feeling of it in your hand,” says Jackie Breyer, editor in chief of product-review website the Toy Insider. “Just the blur of it spinning around, it's a little hypnotic.”

NPR member station WBUR in Boston ordered 1,000 fidget spinners to distribute as favors at a marketing lunch the station sponsored last month. The theme of the event was digital disruption, and coordinators decided that the distracting gadgets fit the “disruptive” description to a T.

And they were a big hit. “We've done other events where you put an item — a baseball cap or a water bottle — at the table and a lot of them get left behind,” says Kristen Holgerson, director of marketing and promotions for WBUR. The fidget spinners? “They were all gone.”

Holgerson, 45, says that her spinner went home to her 9-year-old, but she still sees other employees playing with theirs at their desks.

Fidget-spinning as an adult requires a healthy dose of self-awareness, of course.

“I still haven't figured out if it's socially acceptable for me to have this thing,” Ventura says. “Is this millennial life now? We play with toys. We Pokémon Go. Is that just life now? Are childhood and adult life merging into this amorphous blob?”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.