I use to manage my anxiety by biting my fingernails. Then I bought a fidget spinner.
Fidget spinners are the insanely popular toy that are probably going to go out of style by the time I finish writing this sentence about fidget spinners. I am at that age when anything “cool” I touch immediately becomes “uncool.” This is much more fun than you’d think.
If you’ve never heard of fidget spinners, that’s probably because you’re an adult without a child or any stress in your life. A fidget spinner is a flat, 3-inch-wide plastic gizmo with three prongs and a ball-bearing in the center. You pinch it and give it a push with your finger. Then it spins effortlessly. Whirl, whirl, whirl.
Fans of the doohickey claim it reduces anxiety. There is no scientific research that supports this claim.
But fidget spinners seem to help millions of people with their nervous energy. It’s like new century folk medicine for the jitter-prone. A public high school teacher friend of mine has told me that his class of hyperactive freshmen use their fidget spinners to enter blissful and contemplative states where they then ignore his history lessons. I thanked him for his service to the nation.
So I went out and bought a fidget spinner for $10 to see what the fuss is all about. This is called “investigative journalism.” (Do not ask an actual investigative journalist if I am right or not.)
I walked into a bookstore that, like most modern bookstores, sells lots of things that are not books. I picked up a basic fidget spinner and then lied to the cashier while she was ringing me up. I nervously told her that I was buying the fidget spinner for my nephew. I probably smirked when I said it, too, like a real creep.
She did not ask why I was buying it. She did not care. Most likely she was just patiently waiting for her next break while dutifully doing her job. I guess I didn’t want her to think a grown man was buying a kid’s trinket, so I invented a phantom nephew. Yes, in retrospect, that was weird of me to do. I should have told her I was doing research for a first-person internet essay that will undoubtedly win awards.
At first, I just put the fidget spinner on my desk and stared at it. Which was nice. Then I picked it up. It took me a few tries until I got it to spin. Which was, to my surprise, oddly satisfying. I wrote the words “hypnotic distraction” on my empty notepad because, as I mentioned, I am an investigative journalist. I soon learned there are entire YouTube channels dedicated to complicated fidget spinner tricks and stunts. I don’t think I’ll be spinning the toy on my nose while skateboarding anytime soon.
A co-worker walked by when I was first playing with the fidget spinner. She stopped briefly to tell me she had two. I was immediately, and secretly, jealous.
The fidget spinner is the dumbest thing I’ve ever loved and I have loved some very dumb things. I miss my Zune. I’ve actually made important life decisions with a Magic 8-Ball. I have mourned the death of many a Tamagotchi. I’m pretty sure my dad had to knife-fight another parent under an underpass at midnight for a Cabbage Patch Kid that I demanded. Those were the wildly trendy ’80s dolls that looked like plump babies from a nightmare dimension. I loved my Cabbage Patch Doll until I, abruptly, didn’t. I am no stranger to the joys of novelty and the whims of fashion.
So it doesn’t surprise me that I am really, really into this current, soon to be former, fad. My love of the fidget spinner wasn’t a sure thing, either. I put it down for a day after I mastered the basics. The next day, I absentmindedly picked it up while I was concentrating on a spreadsheet. I didn’t even realize I was using it. This is the first stage of fidget spinner addiction. The second stage is pride in being part of a community that loves a soothing thingamabob.
I’ve only recently discovered the third and final stage: when your fidget spinner lulls you into a zen-like trance and the universe reveals its secrets to you.
I think it is worth mentioning, again, that there is no evidence that fidget spinners have any anti-anxiety benefits. However, anecdotally, they do occupy my busy hands. They’re also inexplicably fun.
In the days since I sheepishly purchased my fidget spinner, I’ve taught myself to spin it delicately on one finger for a few seconds. With a little more practice, I could be just like your average middle school popular kid.
The fidget spinner is in my pocket most days now. I take it out when I’m on my couch or on the subway or sitting in a meeting, in what I like to think is a “power move” (but probably isn’t). I’m thinking of buying a few more — including a smaller, two-pronged one — so I can have other playful options when I’m feeling antsy. I recently joked to my therapist that I was thinking of replacing her with my fidget spinner. Then we had an open and honest conversation about passive-aggression.
I’ll probably get bored with my fidget spinner but until then I’m going to whirl, whirl, whirl.