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August 16, 2013

Fads center on social media

NORMAN — Even in a slower cultural age, it was obvious to kids that adults getting involved with the latest fad signaled its impending doom. Such was the fate of Chubby Checker’s 1960s dance craze, the Twist.

“Come on, baby, let’s do the twist, Come on, baby, let’s do the twist,” Chubby sang and then later continued, “My daddy is sleepin’ and mama ain’t around, Yeah, daddy’s just sleepin’ and mama ain’t around. We’re gonna twisty, twisty, twisty till we tear the house down.”

All it took was hearing the opening chords of his hit song to get our youthful hips swaying one way and our arms the other, twisting as it were.

The problem was after a couple of years, daddy and mama started doing it, too. And once that started, the Twist was on its way out. No kid in his right mind would think about doing the Twist.

Other dances such as the Mashed Potato, Frug, Pony and Watusi followed, but they live on in my memory as names only, their actual steps long since forgotten.

I’ve been out of that generational loop for many decades now, but it seems to me dance fads like La Macarena or, more recently, Gangnam Style (ask your kids), were short-lived in comparison. There are a couple of reasons for this, the first reason leading to the second.

The second reason they are now in the ash heap of popular culture history is that adults quickly took them over. The No. 1 reason has to do with why they were taken over so quickly.

Social media. When these new venues become the conduit for something faddish, their burnout time is ratcheted up and the quicker adults get wind of them.

Paradoxically, most of today’s fads center not on music at all but on social media. It wasn’t long ago that kids emailed each other. They don’t do that anymore. Now they text, tweet or Skype (ask your grandkids). A friend of mine tells me his teenage son told him about a new platform in which kids send messages to each other that last only seconds before disappearing, perhaps exactly mirroring the typical teen’s attention span.

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