I recently read an article in The Atlantic that suggests 2020 is not really the mark of a new cultural decade, but maybe it is for me. While it’s clear that eras rarely correspond to years ending in zero, author Amanda Mull’s point in her piece was that 2010 did not see enough changes to give the 2010s distinction from the 2000s.
She notes that the economic downturn, which showed itself in mortgage loan crises that exploded in 2008 were showing signs back in 2001. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that back in 1999 everyone was talking about Y2K and how it could destroy life as we knew it. This did not happen on NYE 2000, but something really bad did happen 21 months later.
9/11 — September 11, 2001 changed life as we knew it. Air travel would never be the same again. And the dotcom economy as I’d seen it crumbled. Seemed like more than a coincidence to me. Back in 2000 and earlier, it appeared like anyone who wanted one could get a graphic design job. Then, nobody could get any good creative job.
So, for me that’s when the 90s ended.
Also, for people like me working in media, all of our technology rapidly became obsolete. I could say a lot more about this, but it’s too boring and tragic to bother.
What I will say is that Mull also notes in her article how people at her high school were already texting each other in 2003, and that social media was a thing, too. Facebook had been preceded by Friendster and Myspace, blah blah blah. Sure, but the big thing about Facebook was the scale. And besides that, it was just a desktop application. Doing things online meant doing them on a computer, which usually meant sitting in a corner of someone’s house. Of course, laptops had been around forever and wifi was available and getting better everywhere, but to engage online meant being in front of a computer with a keyboard.
Cell phones were really more of an analog device before the release of the first iPhone in 2007. And even then, nobody really knew what to do with a data plan yet. People mostly called each other and sent small messages composed by tediously keying in T9 environments.
Then, suddenly, everyone was online. Grandmothers were sending emails and moms were addicted to looking at babies on Facebook. Plus your weird uncles had a place to share their conspiracy theories with thousands of like-minded individuals.
So, for me, the 2000s were a distinct period, an era that could be called a decade, though I’d say it started late and ended early. The Big Short housing bust coinciding closely with smartphones, the mobile web, retail dumps for online purchase and shipping, social media — which includes cyberstalking — and a shift in communication and decorum marked all pretty closely around 2010 seems like the start of something new. Several somethings. Also, 2007 was the peak year of paper usage in America, which I believe is a noteworthy change to the way we do business and communicate with one another.
2009 was the year I experienced my first full blown panic attack. I’d call that the end of innocence, maybe. And I’ve spent the last decade, these past ten years, dealing with generalized anxiety disorder in one way or another. Near the end of 2009, I also ended a toxic relationship that spanned most of the 2000s (even though it started near the beginning of 2005). The long three years leading into that were sort of a preamble of bumbling idiocy that I can only fairly call youthful indulgence, arrogance, indiscretion (that did include my first trip abroad). I was stupid and I did stupid things as I adjusted to life without chemical dependence.
But that’s only half true. I drank well from 2009-2017 because I drank heavily from 1996-2008 or whatever. Now I face this new decade, the first 20s of Millenium III with a couple of years of sobriety and a new mental health challenge: my anxiety has apparently waned in favor of depression. Hopeful depression, if that’s a thing.
I’ve also got some promising opportunities ahead and the release of new work, so maybe these things just go together. Let’s all have fun in our new 20s, no matter how old we are.