If you think about life a mere 10-20 years ago, it was shockingly different than what we’re used to today. The last couple of decades have probably packed in more change than any other two decades in history. Of course we’re all well aware of the technological improvements that have occurred. We’ve read ad nauseam about how smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, wireless internet, and myriad other advances have made our lives unrecognizable from what they once were.
But life has changed in many other ways as well. The very things that we discuss daily, that we see in the news, and that guide how we live our lives have shifted as well. Below are some topics that were absolutely far from the mouths of the general public a short 20 years ago.
6. Sedentary life being as deadly as smoking
First smoking could kill you. Then it was fat and cholesterol. And now everyone has some sort of activity tracker strapped to their wrists to remind them to stand up and walk every hour. We aim to hit (an arbitrary) 10,000 steps every day and more and more office workers are investing in standing desks. Because now, science has shown that living a sedentary lifestyle and sitting at a desk for most of the day can kill you.
5. STEM learning
You went to school, or you didn’t. But now with such a heavy focus on technology and engineering (and how it has become clear that jobs in those fields are where the future is going), you can’t read about a school or academic program without seeing the acronym STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math). You might have also seen its updated version STEAM (where the “A” stands for “Arts). If you have a child, make sure he or she is getting plenty of access to STEM.
4. “Sustainability” in daily lingo
Who knew what sustainability was at the end of the century? Very few people, that’s for sure. But now many people live their lives with this very concept in mind. It guides what they eat, what products they use, and what they do with their time (and waste, more importantly). Do you live a sustainable lifestyle? If you do, there’s a good chance that you didn’t in 1999.
3. What’s “streaming” rather than what’s airing on network TV
We had just a few choices of what to watch on television until relatively recently. We had network TV (NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox), and then we had our basic and premium cable subscriptions. But now everyone has cut their cable cords and is streaming their favorite content on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and any other number of platforms through the internet. We didn’t even use such words as “content,” “platforms,” or “streaming” until a few short years ago.
2. Kids getting shot at school
Remember when Columbine shook our nation to its core? When there was an eerie silence everywhere after it happened because it was obviously so incredibly shocking and horrible? That was in 1999. How many school shootings have there been since then? And not just mass shootings (as there have been several of those), but one-offs that you don’t even hear about in the news anymore because they’re so prevalent. This is not normal. At least it wasn’t 20 years ago.
1. Measles (and other preventable disease) outbreaks
For several years, vaccines were the norm. Not many people questioned the practice, and most were thrilled that scientists had discovered a way to keep deadly, horrible diseases at bay. And then a doctor faked a study to get recognition, and everyone who insisted on listening to anyone who had a cabinet full of essential oils stopped getting their kids vaccinated for fear of autism. (Spoiler alert: vaccines definitively do not cause autism.) And now what do we have? A measles outbreak. We did not have measles outbreaks 20 years ago. Thanks, folks.