Author Archives: Zanele Munyikwa

An In-Depth Look At Fads

Is social media a fad?

While we can all easily conclude that social media is probably here to stay, we do know that fads are only becoming more and more prevalent. Social media is probably a leading cause of this : the invention of Youtube has allowed for everything and anything to become viral. Some would say that we follow fads because of social proof. We see others doing something, and suddenly it is validated as a legitimate thing to do. Just look at the fads that have existed throughout the ages:

A fad is defined as a short-lived enthusiasm, that generally has three parts: the emerging or beginning, then surging in popularity, then purging or collapsing. Fads generally surge in to a peak of popularity, and then drop abruptly out of favor. We needn’t look far to see what fads are prevalent right now. There are various opinions about why fads exist. Social proof, perhaps, but some researchers have differing opinions. Do we follow fads because we see other people following them? Or are fads merely a collective reaction or innovation to a societal issue. For example, in this ( recent Yahoo article, it argues that the reason zombies are all over entertainment is because of a lack of content in our society?

Fad diets ( could have a similar explanation. Perhaps they are merely reactions to the failure of previous diets…

While we generally speak of fads in terms of clothing and toys, there is also something called an institutional fad, fads that occur within serious institutions such as education. Instituational fads often linger longer than the neon suspenders and bell-bottom jeans lasted  and often have dangerous consequences. For example, institutional fads often occur not only in education related, but also health-related institutions. We got a vague idea of this from the article on Fad Diets, but the following article addresses a deeper issue.

The article addresses a phenomenon called, the medicalization of addiction. According to, Anderson, Swan, and Lane (2010), the medicalization of deviance has led social phenomena such as depression and alcoholism to be considered indicators of a medical problem. This is where the tendency of American society towards fads can become dangerous. In their article, they attest that though there is a fairly recent belief that biological/neurological approaches to these issues is best, this may simply be a result of recent fads. What does the medicalization of drug addiction mean for the War on Drugs? If drug addiction is considered a form of insanity, then that means the way that we convict drug addicts of certain crimes will change. Can we make decisions related to policy based upon what some would consider a fad?  If fads are merely collective responses to a social concern, then maybe we can and should. There was a time where pleading insanity was not an option, regardless of schizophrenia, or any other mental disorders which we have currently accepted as reasonable. Should   drug addiction join those ranks? Where do we draw the line? And should we consider the medicalization of our society a fad, or merely progress in the field of neuroscience and psychology?

What do you think?