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A fad, sometimes called a trend, meme or a craze, is any form of behavior that develops among a large population and is collectively followed with enthusiasm for some period, generally as a result of the behavior’s being perceived as novel in some way.

A fad is said to ‘catch on’ when the number of people adopting it begins to increase rapidly, but they fade quickly once the perception of novelty is gone. Though the term trend may be used interchangeably with fad, a fad is generally considered a fleeting behavior whereas a trend is considered to be a behavior that evolves into a relatively permanent change.

The specific nature of the behavior associated with a fad can be of any type including language usage, apparel, financial investment, and even food. Apart from general novelty, fads may be driven by emotional excitement, peer pressure, or even a desire to be outside social norms (counterculture).

Fads by their nature are temporary, but while many have only a negligible long-term impact on society, others can have dramatic effects, even long after the fads have ended. A notable example of a perceived fad with a major long-term impact was the antisemitism in Europe and the Americas during the late 19th and 20th centuries. In the late 1800s this sentiment was described even by many in the Jewish communities as temporary ‘fad’ and of little long-term concern.

Though relatively temporary, this sentiment led to events in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s that were far more serious than most could have anticipated. Though the endurance and impact of antisemitism may disqualify it as a fad, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to foresee this in the 19th century.

As another example, in the United States during the 1950s, the beatnik movement became a major fad that died out as its original proponents abandoned the movement. Though this fad, in and of itself, was short-lived, it is credited with giving birth to the hippie movement in the following decade, and with inspiring other social trends in the decades that followed.

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