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A turbocharged decade: The 2010s

Silke Wünsch
December 27, 2019

Smartphone text neck syndrome, #MeToo and Netflix: At the end of 2009, who would have thought so much in technology, climate and politics could change in just one decade.

Image: picture-alliance /dpa/C. Schmidt

Smartphone: From thumb to neck

When Apple's iPhone appeared in 2007, it wasn't immediately clear just how quickly it would completely change the way we use media. The touchscreen, with its plethora of functions, spread rapidly, and other manufacturers followed suit. Now the streets are full of people with bowed heads.

Whether walking, standing or sitting, they stare down at the display to play, write or make phone calls. In more and more countries there are traffic lights on the ground to keep people from obliviously crossing the road on red. Some cities have even marked special sections on the sidewalk for smartphone users.

Instagram and influencers

Cato Daur and Bibi
Influencers: Fashion blogger Cato Daur and Youtuber Bianca "Bibi" HeinickeImage: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen/J. Kalaene

While industry and the media keep trying to give women a new self-image — half-starved women on catwalks slowly giving way to slightly fuller women, or a soap company turning women with small imperfections into advertising icons — others clearly can't shake the image of the super-slim beauty. Influencers are born on YouTube and Instagram  — media makers whose posts reach so many people that they becoming a marketing platform unto themselves.

In addition to influencers who actually create content, the majority — especially female ones — are eager to flood their young followers with an image of beauty manufactured by the fashion and cosmetic industries. Filter apps make pimples disappear, shrink hips and fill out lips. A selfie from above (because from below produces a double chin) in a stylish ambiance — that's it for the perfect self-portrait. Reality plays a small role here, counteracting another trend of recent years.


#MeToo protest in New York
#MeToo protests around the globe: We say when you can touch us!Image: Imago/Pacific Press/L. Radin

In January 2013, the German feminist, Anne Wieczorek, used the hashtag Aufschrei (outcry) to ask her Twitter followers to describe their experiences with everyday sexism, misogynistic jokes and other assaults. Two weeks and 60,000 tweets later, Germany was embroiled in the debate.

Four and a half years later, sexism and sexual assault became a major issue again, and this time worldwide. #MeToo came out of allegations that film producer Harvey Weinstein assaulted multiple women in Hollywood. The campaign took down several celebrities, including the likes of Kevin Spacey and Placido Domingo.


"Game of Thrones" stars Emilia Clarke  Daenerys and Kit Harington
"Game of Thrones" was one of the most successful series of the 2010sImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Sky

Ten years ago, streaming films and TV series was an expensive endeavor, primarily reserved for US viewers. Then came Netflix. In 2012, it conquered large parts of Europe and finally came to Germany two years later. Other streaming platforms followed, such as Sky and Amazon Prime, working with the big US production companies like HBO to bring massive hits like "Game of Thrones" and "Homeland" to Germany. With TV now available on all devices, television will never be the same again.


Spotify in New York
In April 2018, Spotify lists its stock on the New York Stock ExchangeImage: picture-alliance/dpa/AA/A. Elshamy

Spotify came to Germany in 2012. The music streaming platform finally killed the CD, and put an end to the mp3, cumbersome music management software like iTunes and problems with hard drive storage space. With streaming, you can listen to music immediately, create playlists or — better yet — have Spotify feed your suggestions. In addition to more than 50 million music titles, the streaming service offers audiobooks and podcasts. Famous artists and the music industry, fearing a loss in revenue, have been unable to stop Spotify's progress, not that they haven't been able to enjoy a slice of the profits.

Refugees, xenophobia and a new party

Protests against AfD in Warnemünde (August, 2018)
Welcoming culture in GermanyImage: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Hormann

"We can do it." That was German Chancellor Angela Merkel's message in fall 2015. With open arms, hundreds of thousands of people fleeing poverty, hunger and war came into Germany hoping for a better life. Initial solidarity ("Refugees welcome") turned to uncertainty with the presence of all the new faces. That gave way to displeasure and anger — and even hatred when, on New Year's Eve 2015, young men from North Africa attacked girls and women in Cologne. It was music to the ears of a party that did not exist ten years ago: AfD (Alternative for Germany). Founded in 2013, the AfD quickly found its supporters. The party is right-wing populist, partly extreme right-wing. Its representatives sit in the Bundestag ((and every state legislature)).

Smoking ban

Screenshot DE_facto
Image: DW

On August 1, 2010, a comprehensive and unconditional smoking ban came into force in Bavaria. Other federal states followed suit. People were full of anxiety, finding it difficult to imagine a bar without smoking. Smoking bans are now in place across Germany, though some states have exceptions. But what was unthinkable for many passionate smokers happened: We got used to smoke-free pubs, clubs and beer tents.


Two cows in the meadow
Cows produce methaneImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Müller

Swearing off animal products has long been ridiculed. Now, vegan living has become part of daily life. Restaurants and supermarkets offer vegan food, and vegan clothing is in vogue. Veganism stands for protecting animals from exploitation and cruelty. Climate change has become an added reason to go vegan, as the methane and nitrous oxide emissions produced by raising livestock, have been proven to harm the climate.

Climate change

Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg at the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference in MadridImage: AFP/C. Quicler

Despite a plethora of international conferences and promised measures, we have hardly made a dent in climate change. Then a 16-year-old Swedish student came along who refused to go to school on Fridays. Students around the world started following her lead, staying out of school to hold climate strikes on Fridays. It wasn't long until Greta Thunberg spoke to world leaders at a climate summit, ignoring the mockery, gloating and lecturing from some. She got the world to listen, though we are still a long way off from averting global catastrophe. Nevertheless, in Germany, the Greens are near the top of the polls, winning big at the state and EU levels.

Mindfulness, "hygge" and self-optimization

Two people enjoying sunset on the beach
Is this a so-called Danish "hygge"?Image: picture-alliance/dpa/H.-C. Dittrich

In light of end-of-the-world climate news, the misery of hundreds of thousands of refugees, the policies of the incumbent US president and many other seemingly intractable conflicts around the world, it seems that people are searching for an inner quietude. In no other decade has so much literature been published addressing quality of life. Magazines, sustainably produced, provide instructions on mindfulness, yoga classes and articles about getting out of the rat race. The Danish word "hygge" has become popularized to mean to live happily, enjoy the moment, and do yourself and others good.

This only works when you are at peace with yourself. Personality coaches and psychologists promise us the way there by putting out countless podcasts and YouTube videos that have clocked millions of hits. These bring in a lot of money, which may be deserving of criticism  but whatever it takes to make people feel better.

With all that in mind, the editors wish you a successful start to the new decade!