10 Concepts That Didn't Exist 10 Years Ago
It was 2004, and "blog" was the word of the year. A newborn network called TheFacebook was only known to a few college students.
I was busy planning my (very cheap, very DIY) wedding ceremony via wedding forums and blogs; at work, I was making the case to my boss that enabling comments on the site would not "cheapen the experience."
It was a different world.
Some phenomena of 2014—like Bitcoin and clandestine phone surveillance and 3-D printing—still feel very "the future is now!" to me, and I can hardly believe they exist … but I really have to stop and try to remember life without these 10 concepts.
#1. Never Being Lost
Well … not quite never. I go camping in thickly forested mountains where my phone won't work (which is the point), and I've trained myself to bring a paper map with me in those situations. But that's the wilderness. In the city where I live, I've got directions. Walking, cycling, or driving. With traffic. And estimated arrival time. At all times, assuming I'm powered up. I know when the next bus is coming. I've got Google Street View to show me what my destination looks like. "Lost" as a concept is becoming obsolete—or, at least, voluntary.
#2. The Quantified Self
Self-improvement through self-tracking via technology seems so basic to me, now that I count my 10,000 steps, know my heart rate and pace per mile, journal my migraines and sleep—and share what I want to of that information with my friends. But the term was coined in 2007 by Wired editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, who also run the Quantified Self Labs and conference.
#3. Legal Same-Sex Marriage
Okay, this was, of course, a concept long before 2004—one that a lot of us had been working toward for a very long time. But that it would be commonplace in so many states was not. The 10th anniversary of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts took place on May 17, while Arkansas became the first state in the South to issue same-sex marriage licenses this week.
4. Reading Whatever You Want Whenever You Want
You could probably tell what year I started reading ebooks by looking at my bookshelf; besides a few coffee-table pretties, a few review copies, and a lot of cookbooks, it looks like it was frozen in time somewhere around 2009. Every year, it feels more and more antique. On the flip side, I don't need new bookshelves now. And I don't have to decide which book I'm in the mood to read—or whether I'd rather read online instead. And now I can track what I've been reading and get recommendations for things I like. Hurrah for more reading!
#5. Influencer Marketing
Influencer, the book, came out in 2007 (one year after BlogHer's network made up of influencers was born, ahem), and the concept of "influencer marketing"—connecting, engaging, and building relationships between brands and storytellers able to influence buyers—was born. Wait … how did we do it before?
But hey, we've always known the power and trust built-in to the everyday exchanges women share—whether on Facebook or face-to-face. It's just that the technology made that power visible and trackable.
6. The One Percent
The one percent of U.S. residents who hold nearly a quarter of U.S. income was the target of the Occupy movement protesting income inequality, who used the slogan "We are the 99%." Occupy's tents are mostly gone now, but it's still hard for me to remember a time when "the one percent" and "income inequality" were not household words.
It absolutely stuns me to remember that the word "locavore" didn't exist until 2005, when it was coined in San Francisco—and that even in 2007, when it became the Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year, locavorism was a small movement trying to get the word out about its 12 reasons to eat locally. Cut to 2014, when the National Restaurant Association named locally sourced ingredients as the top restaurant trend nationwide for the second year in a row … and locally grown produce is sold at Walmart.
8. The Hashtag
The term was coined in 2007, and became the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year in 2012. Even if Twitter does phase the hashtag out eventually, it will live on as a concept, and as a marker of these 10 years in history, forever.
9. "Photography Is Easy"
Digital cameras had made photography more accessible before 2004—but you had to remember to take your camera with you everywhere. I never could. But pretty much as soon as I got my first iPhone, I was taking pictures all the time—and a little later I was able to improve them with all sorts of filters, editing apps, and dead-simple editing sites like PicMonkey.
They only date to 2006, and they hit peak meme status in 2007. Isn't that weird? It only seems like they've been around forever.