Relive the decade that’s responsible for your smartphone and social media addictions: “The 2000s” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNNTV and CNNgo.
For those of us old enough to remember the year 2000, it doesn’t seem so long ago that the world was freaking out about the Y2K bug that would supposedly bring about the end of the world.
(Spoiler: Nothing happened.)
But aside from the possible glitch that threatened doomsday, the dawn of the new millennium felt, at the time, like entering the future.
We marveled at how far technology had advanced in the 20th century. Just under half of all American homes had the Internet they needed to Ask Jeeves for the location of the nearest RadioShack and create bad AOL screennames.
The mobile phone no longer resembled a brick, and you could even play “Snake” on one.
Surely, flying cars and jetpacks were right around the corner.
But as the following 18 years proved, innovation wasn’t peaking at the start of the new millennium. In fact, it was just getting started.
Here’s a look back at the dark ages, a.k.a. the life you likely lived in the year 2000:
1. You relied on a clock radio to wake you (and not because you were worried about screen addiction)
The iPhone was still seven years away from existing, so you couldn’t rely on the “Marimba” alarm. If you had places to be, you used an actual, physical clock to start your day – which is actually coming back in style as more of us ban screens from our bedrooms in favor of getting better sleep.
2. You had five more hours in your day
OK, not literally – but your tiny flip phone could only do so much.
There definitely weren’t any social media apps to scroll through immediately after opening your eyes (and immediately before closing them, but who’s counting?). Friendster, the often-mocked social network, didn’t exist until 2002, and Facebook wouldn’t appear until two years later. (BlackPlanet, however, was there for you when you turned on your desktop.)
So the real question is: what did you do with all this time you now spend staring at your phone?
3. You waited patiently for the news
Maybe you spent it reading the newspaper. Like an actual collection of pages with words on them that you had to turn in order to find out information.
If you were not in front of a TV, you could go hours without knowing the latest thing the president said. Crazy times, these were.
In 2000, daily weekday circulation for newspapers in the US was estimated at nearly 56 million. That number is down to just shy of 31 million as of last year, and continues to shrink. In 2017, Pew found that 18 percent of Americans still turned to print for their news, while 43 percent reported often getting news from the thing you’re using to read this (that would be the Internet).
4. You printed out directions from MapQuest because that was the high-tech way to live
Let’s say you were starting a new job at a dotcom company in an unfamiliar area. You could use an actual map … or you could use that cool MapQuest site, which would handily deliver you step-by-step directions you could print out and read!
There are clear problems with this strategy – what if you mistyped your destination and were reading the wrong directions? What if you had the sunroof open and lost page 2 to the wind? – but at the time it seemed so much more efficient than a regular map.
5. Your morning commute could only feature a few albums at a time
Whether you got around by car, by bus or by train, one thing was key: you had to really love whatever album you put in your Discman for the ride.
Without the ability to store a massive library of MP3s on your iPod – which didn’t debut until 2001 – and being a decade away from switching albums with a single touch with streaming options like Spotify, you had to commit to the radio or that CD you burned with your latest mix. (Or carry around one of these, in which case, no judgment.)
That’s probably why you still know the entire tracklist of “No Strings Attached.”
6. You had no way of knowing what was in your inbox until you were at your desk. (Karen has an urgent issue? Karen has to wait)
And not because you dislike Karen, but because your email was years away from coming directly to your phone. (BlackBerries with push email? That wasn’t until 2002.)
Needed to talk to a coworker? Some offices used instant messaging, but often you had to actually walk over and make eye contact.
Giving a presentation? You had to load up PowerPoint and pull down the projector.
Wanted to waste time? Try printing something with the supposedly “high-tech” printer or sending documents via fax.
And believe it or not, your work day didn’t revolve around your connection to the Web. In 2000, just 29% of Americans reported to the Pew Research Center that they went online in a typical day.
7. You had no need to take a picture of your lunch, or the coffee you just bought, or your new haircut, or …
First of all, no Instagram. (Or MySpace, for that matter; the social network didn’t launch until 2003.)
Second of all, in order to document every moment of your life, you had to carry around an extra device: an actual camera. The concept of the cameraphone was still a few years away from becoming mainstream – unless you were this guy.
8. If a friend of a friend set you up, you just had to take your chances
Without a Facebook page to stalk, Google search results to study (in 2000, the company was still a growing startup), or a Tinder profile to briefly scrutinize, meeting up with a potential date was so much harder. You had to set up a time and place – most likely by taking 20 minutes to write a text on a tiny keyboard – and then you had to just … show up. And hope it didn’t end badly.
9. When you ordered take-out, you looked at a piece of paper and then picked up a phone
The standard way to order takeout and delivery in 2000 was flipping through the stack of delivery menus sitting in your drawer. And you could only hope that the food was good, because you couldn’t open Yelp to check the reviews. If only Seamless was available then.
10. You had a monthly subscription to Netflix … to rent DVDs
When the year 2000 rolled around, Netflix was just getting started: it could recommend you movies, give you three DVDs at a time, and let you keep them for as long as you wanted. “The dream 20 years from now,” CEO Reed Hastings said in 2002, “is to have a global entertainment distribution company that provides a unique channel for film producers and studios.”
Netflix now has 130 million subscribers around the world who can stream tons of award-winning content on demand. So yes, that appears to be a mission accomplished.