How has your life changed in the last decade? Many of us have watched children and relatives grow up; most likely we have all lost someone we loved. Some of you have started new jobs while others have ended a career or entered into “re-wire-ment.”
Now take a wider view: How has our world changed in the last decade? At the beginning of the decade, the United States was recovering from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We had withdrawn from Iraq, learned what WikiLeaks was, and were cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—the worst in U.S. history.
Ten years ago, no one could imagine Brexit; iPhones held less than 20 percent of the global cell phone market (now it’s more than 50 percent); and phrases like “fake news” and “alternate facts” did not live in our vernacular. A few things I thought were introduced in the last decade—such as the iPhone, Netflix and Bitcoin—were actually introduced much earlier but exploded during the last decade.
Change usually happens in incremental steps. It is only when you reflect on the totality of the changes that you realize how much we take for granted; and, yes, how much lies ahead.
Facebook friends: What are the biggest changes of the last decade?
I asked my Facebook friends what they believed were the most notable changes of the last decade and, as expected, the 155 responses I received were as wide ranging as my friends. My social worker friends cited the opioid epidemic. Finance types mentioned Zelle and Venmo (paperless apps to transfer money). Political aficionados cited the Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission; the changing political landscape; and the initiatives, protests and legislation relating to climate change which has garnered intense media coverage.
The most popular comment revolved around the exponential explosion of technology. Others spoke of healthcare progress—strides in curing diseases as well as using technology to monitor health. And, of course, there are the cultural and societal changes: the first woman candidate for President, the #MeToo movement, and the impact of changing social norms.
The following list is not complete—and I must admit to not knowing what some of the responses meant (what’s a “trigger warning”?)—but it is a thought-provoking, informal survey of the innovations, shifts and advancements of the past decade.
We’ve seen dramatic changes in public opinion since 2010: Support for same-sex marriage surpassed opposition in the 2010s, and Americans increasingly support the legalization of marijuana (67 percent of U.S. adults, according to the Pew Research Center). Specifically, my friends mentioned these notable alterations to American culture and society:
- The Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states in 2015
- Partial legalization of marijuana: 11 states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Medical marijuana, prescribed by physicians, is legal in 33 states and Washington, D.C.
- Social media exploded and surpassed print newspapers as a news source for Americans. More than half of U.S. adults now get news from Facebook.
- #MeToo quickly became a movement in 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet”
- Emojis became “woke” when racially diverse options were introduced in 2015
- Opioid and meth addiction became a global epidemic
- Juul revolutionized the e-cigarette industry in 2015 with a flash-drive-looking device, fruit flavors, and a new formula. E-cigarette use among high school students skyrocketed 78 percent, and the first death in the U.S. linked to vaping products was reported in August 2019.
- "Fake news" and “alternative facts” were introduced to our vernacular
- Mass shootings in schools, churches and public places led to active shooter drills in schools, churches and offices; school nurses train teachers how to “Stop the Bleed”
- The “anti-vaxxer” movement undid the elimination of measles in the U.S. (declared in 2000), and 2019 has been the worst year for measles in decades
- Safe spaces, “generation snowflake” and trigger warnings went viral; Millennials and Zoomers (generation Z) respond to criticism of hypersensitivity with the catchphrase “Ok, Boomer”
- Transgender issues made headlines in the 2010s as some administrative rulings removed gender identity from federal antidiscrimination regulations and transgender Americans were banned from military service
- Demand for sustainable products and solutions brought us stainless steel straws, reusable water bottles, urban bike and scooter rentals, and Rothy’s shoes
Television and Music
The most significant development for TV was the Smart TV which paved the way for companies like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and now Disney+ to stream and produce their own programming. TV producers can now tell more complex stories without some of the limitations of network TV. The “House of Cards” series, released in 2013, became the first online-only web TV series to earn major Emmy nominations. Streaming services also introduced international content, such as Germany’s “Babylon Berlin”, Spain’s “Cable Girls” and UK’s “Broadchurch” to American audiences.
- TV series are no longer released in seasons, but available on demand and all at once. Binge-watching was born.
- Music streaming services, such as Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music, became the choice music delivery system, much like Netflix is for TV and films
- Social media has provided platforms to discuss our favorite TV series, allowing audiences to interact with—and potentially influence—the producers, directors and actors in those shows
- Game of Thrones: no comment needed over this cultural phenomenon that began in 2011 and ended in 2019
- Flawed male leads prevailed in shows like “Breaking Bad”, “House of Cards”, “Mad Men” and “Succession”
- The Oprah Winfrey Show—the number-one talk show for 24 consecutive seasons—ended in 2011
- Jay Leno retired—twice!—from the “Tonight Show”, once in 2009 and again in 2014
- Matt Lauer, Les Moonves, Charlie Rose fired from network TV due to sexual harassment charges
- The rise of the documentary: Michael Jackson biopic “Leaving Neverland” aired on HBO in 2019 and brought home an Emmy; O.J. Simpson crime documentary “O.J.: Made in America” aired on ESPN in 2016 and won Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards
Scientific Advancements and Health
Possibly the most important biomedical story of the decade is the emergence from relative obscurity of a gene-editing technology called CRISPR. Using this process, scientists can erase and insert bits of DNA in living organisms which has the potential for curing many genetic diseases.
Other developments from the past decade:
- Personalized medicine and targeted therapy for cancer patients
- New medications to cure hepatitis C
- Virtual doctor visits
- Sitting became the new smoking, with the release of Dr. James Levine’s 2014 book “Get Up!”
- Wearable health and fitness trackers from Garmin, FitBit and Apple Watch
- An FDA-approved Ebola vaccine
Technology, Technology, Technology
Technology has introduced a global sea change in the way we communicate, do business, travel and shop. Along with the improvements come challenges: Our laws have not kept up with the changes in technology, and we will need to enact laws in the near future to address privacy and ownership of online data, as well as how to prevent crimes committed using new technology.
Consider these innovations, which all came about in the past 10 years:
- The first iPad was released in 2010; the Apple Watch hit our wrists in 2015
- We’ve gone cashless as a growing number of apps such as Apple Pay (2017), Zelle (2017) and the pioneer app Venmo (2009) enable digital payments to friends, family and businesses
- We’ve also gone paperless with online bank statements and parking meters; digital boarding passes, movie tickets, etc.
- Ride-sharing service Uber revolutionized urban transportation with its launch in 2010
- Airbnb quickly followed the success of Uber’s shared-economy business model, announcing one million nights booked in 2011
- CLEAR, a biometric security service, was launched in 2010 to help members speed through airport travel document checks, complementing TSA Pre✓® (physical screening) and Global Entry (US Border Control and Customs)
- Instagram, launched in 2010, is now one of the fastest-growing social media networks globally, especially among teens
- Hey, Siri... Alexa, Siri and Google become virtual assistants as more and more devices—refrigerators, door locks, thermostats, robot vacuum cleaners—become web-enabled and accessible by command and on demand
- Drones entered our airspace, as hobbyists, entrepreneurs and businesses took advantage of affordable, WiFi-enabled equipment
- The 787 Dreamliner landed in 2011
- Online grocery and clothes shopping gave us back our weekends
- Roomba brought robot technology into our homes.
- Travel budgets were cut as Internet-based videoconferencing—such as Facetime, Skype and Zoom—became a ubiquitous part of work and life
What Does This Have to Do with New Year’s Resolutions?
We’ve taken a look back; now let’s move forward. As we enter a new decade, take time to reflect and plan. The mind-boggling amount of change in the last ten years emphasizes the need for all of us to embrace change. My advice:
- Stay current. No matter how old or young you are, you need to stay current both in your own world and in the bigger world. This is especially important for those of us who are older as we didn’t grow up with technology. Read the above article and if you aren’t familiar with some of the changes listed above, do some research. If you are younger it is equally important to expand your world view to understand global politics and economics
- Find beauty, joy and peace. People seem more stressed these days. Perhaps it is because more demands are placed on us as parents, workers, children and partners. Perhaps it is because of proliferation of external stimuli. Regardless, it is important to find something that brings you peace. For me, a beautiful sunset, flowers or nature quiet my mind and bring me to a state of gratitude. And I know that I think better and am happier when I am grateful. For others, it may be their place of worship or meditating. Find your peace, if only for a moment.
- Do some things alone. There are so many events, commitments and demands on our time by friends, family and goodness knows who else. And it is easy to be overly dependent on other people for your happiness. I hear so many people say “I can’t go to X because my friend/partner/spouse won’t go.” Be okay doing things by yourself. Last summer, my husband wanted to go to a classical music festival; I would rather have a root canal. He went alone; had a great time; and returned happy, grateful and fulfilled.
- Have your own posse. While it is important to have the confidence to do things solo, everyone should have a support network. These are challenging times, and we will all need to ask for help at some point. And as you get, so you give. Remember those who have helped you and commit to helping others.
Happy New Year!