A fad is a temporary fashion – a flavour of the month. Fads come, and fads go. For example, the big band/swing era; white wall tires and tail fins; hula hoops and yo-yos; the Charleston and the Twist; disco music, pet rocks, slicked back hair (greasy kids stuff) and wearing baseball caps on backwards; westerns on TV and the silver screen have mostly ridden off into the sunset; goldfish swallowing; miniskirts, bellbottom trousers and hot pants; and lots more. A fad can be anything that you adopt as a cultural value-adding to your lifestyle that sets you apart from the community at large, yet keeps you reasonably associated as being a part of your contemporaries, but which you could drop from your lifestyle if you wished or if you were required to. It’s often the next ‘must have’ gadget that you just can’t live without (so you are told), but which will be superseded in a year or two by the next ‘must have’ gadget Mark II.
Non-fads are anything that are personal choices yet are also really essential to your day-to-day existence – so a thing like eating isn’t a fad. Sex isn’t a fad. Social interactions aren’t a fad. Even bicycles aren’t faddish because they have become an overall essential, tried and true ways and means of transport. Or, non-fads could be anything that an outside reality clobbers you over the head with, like the weather, death and taxes!
To repeat, fads are temporary phenomena, only briefly imprinting themselves on our collective psyche before the next big thing comes along. What’s the duration of a fad? There’s no fixed time frame – clothing fashions can change drastically from one year to the next; the influence of a blockbuster TV series or a motion picture, or say toys – maybe over several years. TV series don’t normally last more than one generation, usually far less. So, I’ll pick an average of one generation, on the grounds that the next generation don’t want to imitate or do like their parents did. They’d rather do their own thing in their own way. Kids born in the 1980’s aren’t likely to get to misty-eyed and nostalgic over Elvis and the Beatles and “I Love Lucy”.
Well, UFOs (and crop circles) are both way over a generation old now. UFOs in fact are over three generations old by now and going strong. That in itself suggests to me that UFOs are not a mere passing fad, but reflecting a reality that’s something more permanent or ongoing.
Fads and non-fads appear in all manner of genres. There are fads in sports, say in baseball where for a while the accent is on power and homeruns, yet a decade later it’s the hit-and-run, the sacrifice bunt or fly, walks, and base stealing. Yet a non-fad in baseball is throwing strikes and not making defensive errors.
What about science? Unlike say ‘cold fusion’, SETI (the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) is not a scientific fad; it’s gone on way too long for that. The man-on-the-Moon (Apollo) program however proved to be just that – a temporary blip on the landscape. Science graduates often have to choose career paths based on that’s likely to be non-faddish, long-term science. For example, string theory has been a reasonable career path for physics students for many decades now, so string theory can no longer be considered a passing fad in physics.
One thing is pretty clear – participation in a fad is something voluntary. So, crop circles, if all are manufactured by humans, would have to be faddish, were it not for the long duration of the phenomena. If crop circles, at least in part, have nothing to do with human proclivities to hoax others, then there’s no fad. UFO hoaxes are faddish; immediately jumping to conclusions of alien spaceships when seeing just a light in the sky is voluntary. But, if bona fide alien UFOs are a reality, then seeing one isn’t voluntary and UFOs therefore aren’t a fad.
The bottom line seems to be, if it proves to be ongoing, without any prior cultural background infrastructure, it’s not a fad. If it’s likely to die out within a generation or so, and it can be explained as a natural progression of what culturally has come before, then it’s a fad.
So, are UFOs (and say crop circles) a passing fad? Are UFOs all in the mind, something we adopt as a temporary way of assisting us coping with current reality, perhaps a novelty to give us respite from the ordinary? Are UFOs a reflection of our existing culture, say as expressed via Hollywood themes? Or, are UFOs like the weather – ever present and hammering that point home to us? Does Hollywood reflect the actual presence of UFOs in their themes, or are films perpetuating them in a faddish sort of way?
The origin of the UFO phenomena, if one is to believe the idea that UFOs are all in the mind, was due to the onset of the Cold War, and hundreds of Hollywood films in the fifties played up to the red menace threat, often in the guise of alien invasions (can you recall that catch phrase ‘look to the skies’?). So, if UFOs are a fad, shouldn’t they have died out after the end of the Cold War and the demise of the red menace – reds under the beds? Whatever the origin of UFOs actually was, it does seem to be an origin independent of any cultural influences and no reasonable attempt to culturally explain them, and maintain their presence for over six decades, appears adequate.
Whatever bona fide unexplained UFOs are, they certainly aren’t a fad, rather an ever ongoing phenomenon that’s part and parcel of our environmental background, cause or causes unknown, but probably extraterrestrial IMHO.
Science librarian; retired.
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