Masks, the Fidget Spinners of 2020

Does everyone remember fidget spinners? It wasn’t so long ago that they were everywhere. Every kid wanted one and it wasn’t uncommon to see someone fiddling with one whenever you went out somewhere. Some people argued that they served some value. Some kids even had a doctor’s permission to carry it everywhere and use it. For most people, they were just a toy. It was a thing you or someone in your family had to have. People even began to collect them and get so many that they needed a place to store them like a rack or case.

Spinners spent their time as a default outlet for capitalism that gave everyone something to buy for the kids in their life. Fidget spinners were the latest in a long line of devices or toys that have filled this role for many people. Things like selfie sticks, beanie babies and even going back to things like a Rubik’s cube or a Troll doll for your pencil top. Unique, unusual, cute or memorable things are always calling for a place in our lives and our capitalistic nature often has us buying things because our neighbors are or because it is the new thing to buy.

So, what does this have to do about masks? This is my second post about masks that isn’t really about whether or not you should wear a mask. You can read the first one here. Masks entered into the conversation in the early months of Covid. First, we were encouraged not to buy professionally made masks, as they were needed by front line workers and there were limited quantities. This birthed a cottage industry of homemade masks. We saw lots of funny pictures and memes about things that people had made into masks. I remember seeing videos about how you could make a quick mask from everyday household items, such as socks and even underwear. People showed how to make face shields out of your Krispy Kreme box.

There were many creative solutions that people came up with to provide alternatives to help deal with the unknowns about the Covid-19 virus, but it wasn’t long before the cottage industry was surpassed by real industry. Not only could you buy and order hospital masks and respirator masks online and in the stores, but capitalism and commercialism began to cash in. There were stylish masks from most clothing stores. There were masks with themes, words and memes, so people could express themselves in the same way they might with a new t-shirt. When our kids started back to University, they were issued various masks with their school colors and mascot in order to show their school spirit. You could even get a mask with your own face on it, smiling, so you can wear a permanent smile even if you are doing anything but smiling underneath.

Suffice it to say, the lack of masks are no longer the problem. We go for a walk almost every day and I regularly see masks strewn on the ground, abandoned. These can be both reusable and disposable masks. This is where the connection to fidget spinners comes in. This week, I went to the mall for one of the first and only times since this all started. Not only did every clothing store have a mask display. The familiar kiosks in the middle of the malls had been joined by mask kiosks. Whole kiosks with perhaps hundreds of different styles of masks. That is when I began to realize how ridiculous this had become. There are now more masks in existence than anyone can possibly ever need. I personally have about 4-5 reusable masks that I have used and that is plenty.

Masks have become the new “thing” that people buy. People have obviously started buying more masks even though the ones they have are still usable. Masks are now a way to express their individuality or uniqueness in the same way some other things have been. Is it possible there are mask collectors? It wouldn’t surprise me. Back to fidget spinners. Did you know that we were on the verge of a worldwide ball bearing shortage because of the increasing production of fidget spinners? There were legitimate production of components necessary for industry and society that were held up because we had so many fidget spinners being made. The bigger problem now is we have millions of fidget spinners that nobody wants. While many of the components in a fidget spinner may be able to be reused, I haven’t heard of any efforts to do that.

I haven’t heard of masks causing any similar problems, nor do I expect to, but it is time to draw a line in the sand and say, “we don’t need more masks.” We don’t know how long there will be a demand for masks to be used. Many countries have already moved beyond using masks, but even if we continued to use them into the future, we don’t need more reusable masks to be produced. Masks have become one more output for our capitalistic instincts. Another opportunity to buy ourselves and others things that we don’t need.

We are entering a time that is associated with the giving of gifts. Christmas is a holiday that is defined by the birth of Christ, God’s son. Christ was the greatest gift ever given, through Him a means of salvation was provided for all humanity. We celebrate that gift at Christmas time and some celebrate by giving gifts to others. The purpose of this article is to ask you to examine your overall stewardship in buying things. Masks are a simple example, but they can point to a greater problem of people consistently buying things they don’t need. During this holiday season, don’t celebrate by giving your loved ones things they don’t need which may one day become the fidget spinners and beanie babies of earlier years, gathering dust in some closet or garage. Instead, focus on the things that really matter, the people behind the masks and real needs that people in the world have, the greatest of which is the need for Jesus.

One thought on “Masks, the Fidget Spinners of 2020

  1. Chad,

    I suspect this article is going to age very well. I think more people should write their basics thoughts about masks and lockdowns and COVID-19 so we can all look back on them. We are living through a major historic event.

    Liked by 1 person

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