I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

What Did Life Look Like in the 00s?

In 20 years, if a young person asks you to give him or her a picture of what life looked like in America during the first decade of this century, what will you say?

I've been thinking about that question the past couple of days. All of us would answer that question differently. I probably won't have a definitive answer for five or ten years, because time brings perspective, but I'd make a list that looks like this if I had to answer the question today: 


Everyone who was alive when Islamic terrorists attacked our country will remember the morning of September 11, 2001. I wrote about my memories here. By the time Americans went to bed that evening, we knew life was going to be different in our country.

We woke up the next day to increased security, a temporary sense of unity, and a deep desire to strike back. American pride filled the streets, and workplace, and worship centers. Nobody cared about political party affiliation, race or religious beliefs. Instead, we saw each other as fellow humans in need. It was an awful time and it was a grand time.

Cell Phones

My dad's car blew an engine in 1997 on his way from St. Louis to Omaha to visit my family. He didn't have a cell phone. It was cold out and he sat in his freezing car in a farmer's field for several hours until the farmer came to his rescue and allowed Dad to use his phone. Dad called me and I drove two hours to pick him up. I made a decision that day to buy a cell phone. All the phone did was make phone calls because that's all cell phones did back then, but that was good enough.

By the middle of the 00s, cell phones took photos, sent text messages, recorded voice memos, played digital music, and had instant messenger features. By the late 00s, people who used social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter could update their status on their cell phone.

As is often the case with new technology, new dangers arose. Teens began sexting and drivers became distracted as they fidgeted with their phones. New laws resulted and we adapted.

Steam Explosion Rattles Rush-Hour Manhattan

[NEW YORK - JULY 18 [2007]: Eric Duberice (L) and Will Ozier talk on their cell phones in front of the New York Public Library after walking away from the steam pipe explosion that occurred during rush hour in midtown Manhattan July 18, 2007 in New York City. Steam and mud were forced from the ground near Grand Central Station on East 41st street from Third to Lexington Avenue forcing people to evacuate the area and also causing subway delays. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images) Content © 2009 Getty Images All rights reserved.]

As the decade came to a close, some people dropped their land lines and switched solely to cell phones. Life without a cell phone became nearly unimaginable and people in all age demographics used them, including children. In fact, in one community it was estimated that as many as 45% of homeless people had a cell phone.

The Internet

Somewhere around 1993, I decided I wanted a computer. I had writing aspirations and I knew it was time to transition from electric typewriter to computer so I called a relative who was into computers and asked him if he knew of any good deals. He pointed me to a friend of his who was selling a computer that ran on DOS for $250.00. I bought it and was thrilled with it.

I eventually upgraded to a windows based machine and got online via AOL in 1994. Throughout the 90s, if you were online, you were probably considered a geek. By the end of the 00s, the geek stigma was gone.

The concept of internet dating was popularized by the movie You've Got Mail. At first the practice of internet dating was shunned, but by the end of the decade, if this website is to be believed, 12 couples per day either get married or engaged through Match.com and 118 couples per day get married or engaged through eHarmony.com.

The internet revolutionized the way we connected with one another, read the news, did research, and published our ideas.

Newspapers that had been around for decades began to fold because they couldn't compete with news websites that offered news for free. The internet created a mindset in Americans that believed content should be free. It could be paid for with advertising or product sales but not subscription fees. As the decade came to a close, old school style of journalism was giving way to the new school, but finding funding was still a challenge.

The internet changed the way many people listened to and purchased music. As the decade started, compact disks were king. Along came music in digital format, called MP3, allowing music lovers to download their favorite music and carry their entire music collection on an MP3 player in their pocket.

YouTube was founded in 2005 and much like the internet opened up the world for writers, YouTube opened up the world for anybody with a digital camera or camcorder. Companies jumped in and began featuring their products. Creative types began filming new mini-series. YouTube eventually led to Hulu, a website that broadcasts entire television shows and movies for free (if you'll watch a few advertisements).

During the 00s, the internet brought us entertainment on demand.


Before e-mail came along, I was a huge letter writer. My dad and I exchanged letters often and there's still nothing like receiving a letter that you can pull out of the envelope and see the actual handwriting of a loved one or friend. You can feel the indentations in the paper and know that they were caused by the writer.

E-mail killed the letter and that sort of bums me out. But at the same time, I love being able to send and receive messages instantly. I only wish I would have done a better job of preserving the e-mail I received early on. So much of it was lost as computers crashed (I used e-mail software applications) or e-mail addresses changed. I eventually switched to webmail, even though I despise it, because I always have access to my archives.

By the end of the 00s, you could see a clear split between the way generations used or didn't use e-mail. Older generations embraced e-mail as a primary way to communicate online. Younger generations shunned e-mail in favor of text messaging.


Blogs became everything that personal websites hoped to be. I might be overstating this, time will tell, but when blogging became mainstream in the mid-00s, it felt like the modern day equivalent of Gutenberg's printing press. Much like the pamphleteers of old, communicators no longer had to submit their ideas to editors. They could create a blog and hit the "publish" button.

By the last of the 00s, some bloggers had audiences in the millions and they were making a living from what they wrote and published themselves. By 2008, there were some 200 million blogs in existence with nearly one million posts going up on the internet every 24 hours. Anybody who believed he or she had something to say could start a blog and say it. By the end of the decade, nearly every major website had a blog presence.

Ironically, many bloggers received book deals after their blogs gained high readership numbers. 

Social Networking

Social networking started out as activity that young people used to keep in touch with each other. MySpace was founded in 2003 and it quickly allowed people to become online "friends." Other social networking sites soon followed.

Facebook was founded in 2004. Mostly college students used it, but by the end of the decade, every age demographic was represented and 250 million people were on Facebook.

Twitter was founded in 2006 and by the end of the decade it became one of the ways people discovered and disseminated news. Whenever a tragedy struck or whenever a big story broke, firsthand accounts could be read on Twitter.

The use of social networking evolved throughout the decade. Social networking was used by businesses, celebrities, social clubs, journalists, and the average Joe. Some used it to report news. Some used it to read news. Some used to it promote a product. Some used it to promote a cause. And some used it to create a community of like minded people.

In some ways, social networking made the world feel like a smaller place.

Digital Cameras

Film became unnecessary in the 00s. As digital cameras took off in popularity and as memory cards decreased in price, a family could take as many as a thousand pictures on vacation and never have to worry about running out of space. They could also view and delete any photos that weren't keepers. And they could upload them on services like Flickr, Snapfish or PhotoBucket for other loved ones to see before they even returned home from vacation.

By the end of the decade, many, if not most, cell phones had built in digital cameras which made nearly every event in a person's life one that could easily be recorded through the magic of photography.

Celebrity Fascination

As technology advanced throughout the 00s, it led to websites and blogs dedicated to celebrity gossip. Such sites developed their own reporters and photographers and by the end of the decade they were breaking news. This fed America's fascination with celebrities. Every time a celebrity made a move in public (and sometimes in private), it was captured on video or still photography and broadcast to the masses. A few celebrities seemed to embrace this; most did not.

This is just a small sampling of what life was like in the 00s from my perspective. I'd love to hear your take.


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