Well, looks like it’s that time of the…decade? again. The time where we are all flung out of the preceding ten years and all have to compute what the hell just happened.
The last decade has steamrolled by in a wash of boat shoes, bad indie music, natural disasters, and annoying online adverts. It was the first true decade that I was adult enough to witness to, and what a fortunate person I am for being gifted this one.
So, without further ado, let’s look back on what bizarre lessons this bizarre decade has taught us.
#1 Social Media May Have Backfired On Us
Back in 2004, the world was introduced to Facebook and we all had pretty naive ideas about how we were all going to harness it. Though not the first social media platform (BeBo, MySpace and FriendFinder are all well-known pieces of internet paleontology) it was the first to achieve enormous usage across the world from young to old.
Facebook’s humble beginnings reminded us to keep in touch with old school pals or work colleagues from long ago – politely conversing and commenting on their posts and photos, and staying up to date with the lives of others. Sounds pretty good, right? In fact, in retrospect, it seemed a little too good to be true. In the 2010s, we were all the guinea pigs for this new, unknown era of hyper-connectivity, and the Wild West landscape of Facebook was not a problem that was foreseen ten years ago. With new progress comes new problems – and we are only now coming to terms with and developing solutions to said problems.
Social media has backfired on us as it introduces a strange paradox. Now, we take keeping in touch with other people for granted – and our dependency on social media has made us, ironically, even more insular than ever before. Simply put, if everybody can see what you’re up to in your life, fewer people are likely to actually reach out to you. After all, what motivation do you have to give your old best friend from school a message when you can clearly see he’s just been on holiday? As I stated before, we’ve all been the crash test dummies for the social media age, and our relationship with it has potentially done us more harm than good. Talking to somebody on Messenger is no substitute from an in-person meeting – yet for some, a ‘social night out’ will consist of talking to friends online, filling the void of boredom with a virtual conversation. Only now is the relationship between social media and social anxiety being explored – and whilst we started out happy with the idea of 24/7 connectivity, we closed out the decade being scared and confused by it.
#2 – Our Education System May Be Outdated
Our public school system has served us for well over a century. In that time, we have gone to the moon, built robots that are currently on the surface of Mars, and have invented the internet. However, one thing that remains the same is the practice of shoving 20-40 students in a room and have one teacher read a syllabus. Despite our technology, ethics, and methods of teaching evolving over time, the basic philosophy is exactly the same as it was when our parents were taught. This system, to put it bluntly, doesn’t give a shit if you’re a visual learner, are socially shy, or get distracted easily in class (like I did when I was at school). This system takes any sense of agency away from young learners and nullifies it completely. Feeling ill on the day of your maths exam? Tough shit – if you fail, you’re stupid and you should feel stupid and go and sit in a room with a bunch of other kids who are also stupid. Don’t worry, because soon we’ll all have an assembly on anti-bullying and how you can feel better about yourself which won’t be ironic at all.
It is not just our young learners who are being failed by our education system, however. At the beginning of the decade, universities in the U.K. became extortionately expensive which only pronounced the gap between rich and poor students and furthered the stereotype that a university education is a middle-class privilege even more.
Not only is university expensive – but it also suffers from its own inherent issues. For example, university is becoming more and more of an autonomous experience thanks to online modules and essays – so the need for actually going to lectures is not of paramount importance anymore, and most students spend their days at uni gathering their own information online than actually listening to the lecturer. It could be argued that this is just how education works in the modern age, but I think for £27,000 – you would expect that money to go towards building engaging lessons rather than paying for vending machines and a mini-golf course.
That is not to say that university is a complete waste of time. Although universities in the U.S. and the U.K. are ridiculously expensive, there are still plenty of countries where higher education is affordable, and there are plenty of courses that offer highly vocational, specialized training that is designed to get students hired right out of the gate.
But for the rest of us, I think Good Will Hunting says it best when Matt Damon states, ”you just dropped 150 grand on an education you could’ve gotten for $1.50 in late charges at the public library.” Ouch.
#3 – Changing Workplaces
A more positive take on things, now, as this decade ushered in a golden age of workplace freedom. The rise of apps such as Uber, Lyft, and Deliveroo has made it possible to get a gig armed with only a smartphone and a car (or bike). It now easier than ever to supplement your income, choose your own hours, and plan your work/life balance outside of the office. This decade also saw innovations in the office, too. With the advent of Skype and FaceTime, it is now possible to brainstorm ideas with people thousands of miles away and gather ideas from people you would have never met otherwise.
The 2010s also saw more workplace fluidity than any other decade. More people set up their own businesses, moved around different companies, and more and more people work from home. In fact, the conventional 9-5 workday is becoming more and more obsolete as time goes on, with 57% of American office workers preferring to work remotely.
The technological advances in the 2010s had huge ramifications on the way we work and continues to influence the workplace to this day.
#4 – Mother Nature is Still Strong as F*CK
Though the last ten years were filled with technological breakthroughs such as 3D printers, 4G, flying drones, and, uh, this – it came as a humbling reminder to all us when mother nature struck several times and put us all back in our places.
In fact, in the first month of the new decade, Haiti was devastated by an earthquake that killed thousands and caused thousands more to uproot their lives completely. Later that year, In April, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökul erupted, sending the world into a panicked meltdown as 10 million travelers in Europe had to cancel their plans for Easter. Not a great start.
Nature wasn’t done there, however, as the following year, Japan was rocked by the most powerful Earthquake it had ever seen – triggering a 435mph tsunami which claimed the lives of over 15,000 people and caused more than $235 billion in damages. With Japan’s reputation for being a technological mega-power, the disaster seemed ironic in its choice of location, reminding all of us that we are still no match for the forces of the Earth.
Add in a few hurricanes, a few massive storms, and a few wildfires – and the 2010s left us, mere humans, crawling into the decade with our tails very much between our legs.
#5 – Us vs Them – The Rise of Populism
On April 26, 2019, Avengers Endgame was released and soon became the highest-grossing film of all time. The movie was the culmination of a 22-part story that gripped the public and set numerous box-office records in the process.
Why were these stories so popular, I hear you ask?
The answer is very simple – because they have a clear message. Good guys versus bad guys. Right versus wrong. Us versus them.
People in the 2010s identified strongly with this narrative, as the news was dominated by other, real-life versions of ”good vs evil”. When the Occupy Wall Street movement occurred in 2011, everyday Americans were the heroes on their very own superhero movie, taking on the evil force of the selfish, out-of-touch, elite. Five years later, when Donald Trump gave his inaugural address, he stated that ”For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.” For Trump supporters, he was an anti-hero challenging the established Hilary Clinton, whose ivory tower Trump promised to conquer. Donald Trump painted himself as a savior, and his supporters lapped it up in droves. When the U.K. petitioned to leave the EU in 2016, the two opposing sides tapped into the populist well to create the most divided political landscape the nation had seen in decades.
Hell, even in sports we saw this narrative play out, with small outsiders Leicester City defeating the established elite of other Premier League clubs to lift their first-ever league title. This was such a feel-good story because it represented the ‘little people’ winning over the super-rich. It seems the ‘us vs them’ divide was not only limited to movie theatres and political podiums.
The idea that the world can be broken down into distinct ‘good’ and ‘bad’ forces helps us make sense of it. After all, Earth is a messed up, confusing place. Humans need routine and structure to maintain their sanity – and there is no more convenient option for us than to divide the world into rigid forms of good and bad. With the 2010s ushering in such sophisticated technology, keeping up with the world gets harder and harder. With 24/7 news outlets covering everything from war, to disease, to natural disasters – our brains get overloaded with information – hence why the 2010s opted for the simplicity of story. Our desire for convenience may have lined the pockets of those in Hollywood, but at least it kept us sane.
So there you have it. Let’s see what issues this decade brings on so I can be predictable again in 2030.