I don’t often make a big deal out of the calendar flipping over–sometimes I even sleep through it. Most of the time I look at it as an opportunity to make personal resolutions. It’s fun to join in as we all take a stab at bettering ourselves. We compare our resolutions and laugh at our bravado, and then swap tales of previous goals–both ones we kept and those where our aim outstripped our reach.
But this year also marks the turning of a decade, and perhaps, the changing of an era. As such, I thought it worthwhile to note some of the more important trends of the past ten years. It turns out most have something to do with technology.
- Blogs–prior to this past decade, I wouldn’t be communicating with you in this format. Blogs were available in the aughts, but hardly anybody had one. It took this decade for people to become comfortable with using them in significant numbers. According to hosting tribunal, there are now 500 million blogs worldwide, with two million posts daily (https://hostingtribunal.com/blog/how-many-blogs/). Turns out folks have a lot to say.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Social Media–Both Twitter and Facebook were available in 2006, but it wasn’t until these past ten years that tweeting became widely popular. Social media has become a genuine phenomenon, with both inherent strengths and weaknesses. A great many people now participate–3.2 billion, which is about 42% of the world’s population (https://www.oberlo.com/blog/social-media-marketing-statistics). Two-thirds of US adults now use Facebook. The average person spends 2.2 hours a day on this stuff. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- The first smartphone was actually developed back in 1992, but they were hardly in the hands of ordinary people. https://simpletexting.com/where-have-we-come-since-the-first-smartphone/. It took this past decade for smartphone use to become an expected convention, and for some, a concern. Their use has become so widespread that we’ve needed to evolve forms of smartphone etiquette.
- 3D printing. I was surprised to learn this is even older than smartphones—it goes back to 1983. But this past decade was where we started to see regular people print physical objects from their homes. Now they’ve learned how to print entire houses as well (https://3dinsider.com/3d-printing-history/).
Like it or not, technology has put deep roots into modern culture. It seems important for us to acknowledge this and be wise with it, and not allow it to take over our lives.
Below I’ve also noted some other random events that seemed significant to me. Many of them have a technological component as well.
- April 2010–the iPad launched.
- July 2011—the last Harry Potter movie hit theaters, and the last Space Shuttle mission blasts off.
- December 2012—end of the world fever due to the Mayan calendar.
- December 2012-2014: The Hobbit released as three separate films.
- February 2013—the bionic eye, the Argus II, was approved by the FDA, and it’s still going strong. This is the type of thing I want technology to do. This device has literally enabled some blind people to see.
- December 2013—China’s unmanned moon landing, followed by a January 2019 landing on the far side of the moon. 2013 also saw the Gaia Mission launched, a space observatory by the European Space Agency.
- July-Aug 2014—the ice bucket challenge raised 115 million for ALS research (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease.) I remember seeing pictures of people doing this, with their silly shocked expressions from from the icy water, all over Twitter and Facebook.
- June 2015—same sex marriage became legal in the US.
- Summer 2016—the world went crazy over Pokemon Go. I never played the game, but I did enjoy having impromptu conversations with complete strangers over their progress as they hunted down their electronic prey.
- And in the same period, China completed the largest environmental cleanup in their history, and they have continued similar efforts since.
- January 2017—Donald Trump became 45th president of the United States.
- August 2017—a total eclipse was visible across the US, the first since 1918. I wrote about my experience on that day here: https://cathleentownsend.com/2017/09/13/the-great-american-eclipse/.
- Oct 2017–the #metoo movement took off.
- 2018—polio is eradicated, a huge plus, but in the same year the last Nigerian rain forest was wiped out. No one knows how many diseases may never be cured as a result.
- 2019–Homeless levels become so prevalent throughout California that just about everyone can see that something needs to be done. But real action to make long-term effective change seems to be lacking, although individuals and charities chip in as they can. Most of the government money seems to be spent in “consultant fees.” Also in California, we get to experience the joys of a third-world power grid.
- December 2019–Donald Trump is impeached. Politics become extremely polarized.
It’s the last event, the polarization, that has been particularly distressing to me of late. Most of my life I’ve been a political centrist. No one political party has promoted the things which were important to me enough to win any lasting personal loyalty. I thought a lot of government officials were corrupt, and I was glad that power swung back and forth from Democrats to Republicans. I saw it as a check on the government, similar to the three branches fighting zealously for their particular constitutional perks.
But lately it seems like the center is simply going away. Polarization seems to pulse through all the news, demanding that we irrevocably choose a side. I dislike having my options constrained like this. A certain contrarian streak in my character usually has me looking for another choice. It’s like somebody doesn’t want me spending time checking out all available courses of action.
I tend to be cautious and research things before I act. But researching this area has meant I’ve basically been mainlining fear for months now. Fear from both sides about the impending collapse of our government, our climate, my church–you name it. Read and watch enough of this stuff, and you’ll find yourself thinking that some form of the zombie apocalypse is coming soon, to a town near you.
And I’m tired of it. As well as being somewhat contrarian, I’m also an inherent optimist. Living in fear is not only debilitating, it’s not who I am. Fear-mongering sells stuff, though. It can clickbait headlines like nobody’s business. Think of the lyrics from Newsies: “We need a good assassination. We need an earthquake or a war…” Or Bill Murray in Scrooged, when he’s been told people already want to watch their company’s upcoming Christmas special. He explodes, shouting about how that isn’t good enough. People have to be so scared not to watch it that they don’t dare miss it.
Remember how the media even tried to milk end-of-the-world fear from the silly Mayan calendar thing, back in 2012?
I don’t deny that world events are serious, or say that we shouldn’t be informed about what’s happening in our government. Or that we shouldn’t act. But I resent being manipulated, being made afraid so I’ll pay attention. A lot.
Good things are happening, too. According to the Wall Street Journal, this past decade has seen some incredible advances (https://www.realclearpolicy.com/2019/12/18/the_2010s_have_been_amazing_43666.html).
The article states that an unprecedented number of people have escaped poverty, hunger, and disease. World-wide poverty rates fell by more than half. And more than half of the world’s population can now be considered “middle-class.”
This is seriously good stuff to hold up against the forces of impending gloom.
I’m still going to finish prepping. Because natural disasters will continue to be a threat, I want at least six months of food put away. I don’t think I’ll personally need that much, but it might be useful to help my family and neighbors get through an emergency, too. It would be really cool to get to be a hero without having to run into a burning building. Besides, I’m mostly putting away rice, which is cheap and lasts for thirty years.
So, my New Year’s resolution (besides the inevitable ten pound post-Christmas weight loss), is: don’t let fear of possible events control me. I’m going through my YouTube subscriptions, cutting my news channels back and only keeping those that maintain a relatively even keel. I’m only going to watch the shows I really like or actually need. (And okay, a few funny cat and dog videos.)
And I’m going to do something else I haven’t done, perhaps from lack of courage–send out a personal appeal to everyone reading this.
Polls show that the US is roughly divided in half politically. Presumably, other countries are showing a similar division. That’s far too many people to think of as lesser in some way. Please remember that everyone out there is precious and unique.
We all deserve to be treated with dignity. To express our views without fear of violence. And we should treat others with dignity in return. Name-calling and threats should be off the table. We don’t need to cancel people or belittle them for not agreeing with us. Instead, let’s work to make what we do so irresistible that people will feel foolish for not joining in.
If enough of us agree to do this, the Twenties could really become a decade to remember.
May you and yours have a terrific New Year. : )