The 2000s: A Decade of Doom or Diversions?

Decade had 9/11, Katrina, iPods, Facebook and "celebreality." What defined it?

ByABC News
November 25, 2009, 11:42 AM

Dec. 4, 2009 — -- What defines a decade? Is it a moment? A story? A trend? Perhaps the method of defining is the most telling.

Regardless, it helps to first acknowledge that a decade is coming to a close, a fact that, for various reasons -- perhaps most notably the lack of an easily verbalized name -- may not be foremost in people's minds.

But a new decade dawns in less than a month.

With that in mind, Matt Sigl, a 27-year-old New York theater and restaurant worker, dreams of capturing the zeitgeist, "going viral" and becoming his path to blogging fame.

For more, check out's complete End of Decade section.

On his blog, "You AUGHT to Remember," Sigl details 100 of the decade's trends -- one a day until the new year, on subjects that include "the death of newspapers," "fauxhawks" and "reefer madness" -- the confluence of the legal marijuana debate and "Waiting for Godot"-esque stoner flicks.

"Someone who just has the idea nowadays basically has the ability with no bounds of entry to just start doing it at little or no cost," Sigl says. "I think that that is one of the main stories of the decade, the democratization of media for anybody who wants to participate in it."

Maybe that's THE story of the decade. Or maybe that's just looking on the bright side.

The '00s have brought us blogs on every subject, random thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, 10,000 songs in our pockets and piano-playing cats on YouTube.

But we also saw the Twin Towers fall, terror alerts, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the disputed 2000 presidential election and Hurricane Katrina.

We gaped at reality TV, Paris Hilton, celebrity meltdowns, sex tapes and balloon boy -- but also endured bursting economic bubbles at the start and end of the decade, and millions of Americans out of work.

The grim list goes on: the D.C. snipers, the anthrax letters, the Northeast blackout ...

Was it the digital decade? The disaster decade? The look-at-me generation?

Complicating matters is that history doesn't always correspond to decades on a calendar -- illustrated by the idea that, to some people, the "sixties" may conjure up 1969 more than 1961, and maybe even a few events of the early '70s.

Some argue it takes time and distance to understand what mattered most.

"A lot of these decades … have been named well after the fact," says Bob Batchelor, an editor of the "American Popular Culture Through History" series of books. "It seems to me it's going to take some time to decipher what the decade actually meant before we are able to put the name on it."

But waiting seems so 20th century, like when newspapers waited all the way to 1901 to celebrate the century's arrival.

Nowadays, we can't wait. VH1 launched "I Love the New Millennium," its year-by-year romp through the decade, in 2008, quipping on its Web site, "We love the 2000s so much we couldn't even wait for them to end." Batchelor's book, "The 2000s," came out late that same year.

"The time that was given to allowing things to breathe ... is gone," Sigl says. "There's no patience. Literally, if there's any market or interest in something, media will put it out as quickly as it can be consumed."

Robert Thompson, a professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University in New York, agrees that "We behave in very different ways each hour of the day in 2009 than in 1999."

He and others believe the past decade may be remembered as the time when major technological and social changes went mainstream and changed the way we live.

"I think we're going to be referring to this as the digital age," he says. "When you think of it, YouTube falls right in the middle of this decade. ... The whole notion of texting and Twitter and Facebook has all been in the confines of this decade. And already, as we get to the end of this decade, we're starting to see that settling down."

As the new decade starts, "the actual opera is about to begin," he adds. "I think the actual preparatory stage has reached a sort of, maybe not closure, but ... we have a sense of what the landscape looks like. And most people have come to grips with what this future looks like. There are very few people who still say, 'Send me a letter, I don't understand e-mail.'"