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The sext generation; THE NOUGHTIES a review of the decade.


IT wasn't Britain's Got Talent that made Susan Boyle a superstar all over the world. It was YouTube.

At the time of writing, Susan Boyle's TV debut has been viewed 82 million times on YouTube, a figure that will be out of date by the time you reach the end of this sentence.

The video sharing website meant it was as easy to watch Susan singing I Dreamed A Dream in Hong Kong and Houston as it was in Hounslow and Hartlepool.

The way we get information - and the way we communicate, the way we maintain friendships, the way we flirt, the way we shop - changed out of all recognition in the Noughties. It was a new industrial revolution.

Emails and texting made phone calls seem intrusive and letters - "snail mail" - seem slow and old-fashioned.

Even email was said to have peaked by the end of the Noughties. Research at the University of Kent said email should be renamed "grey mail" because it is mostly used by older people, while most techno-literate youngsters prefer to text or Twitter.

That was the Noughties all over - where the big new thing became old hat in the blink of a digital eye.

Rather than spending time with friends, you could give them a virtual hug on a social networking site like Facebook, Bebo or MySpace. But again, by the end of the Noughties, many restless young sprogs were said to be tiring of web emotions, and were opting for the novelty of a "real" relationship. Whatever next!

Online shopping largely killed off the high street. Digital cameras did for getting your holiday snaps developed at a shop.

For students, journalists and stalkers, Wikipedia became the first stop for information. And many a relationship died when some dirty dog was caught "sexting" - sending a racy text message - to their lover.

Tiger Woods was caught by his wife sending sexts to a Los Angeles cocktail waitress and the discovery sparked the great sex expose of the Noughties.

freeways Sometimes it all seemed too good to be true.

Satnav told you where to point your car. With Skype you could videophone your friends on the other side of the world - for free.

It was the age of ease and convenience: one-click shopping on Amazon, TV ondemand on iPlayer, online newspapers whenever you wanted them. The paperboy was going the way of the blacksmith.

Print was supposed to be dying but writers such as J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown still became billionaires.

Sometimes you felt like turning everything off, a move that became known as "digital sundown". The human race has never been so in touch with one another as we became in the Noughties. The first message was sent on Twitter in 2006. Today there are 35 million users.

A way to exchange short, frequent messages, Twitter allowed users to post "tweets" of 140 characters (not words) or less.

Some saw it as the death of literacy. But Tweeters, when uniting to send a record up the charts or to punish a journalist they deemed guilty of homophobia, proved themselves a force of real power.

Twitter showed that the internet did not have to be a Tower of Babel but that likeminded souls could speak with one voice. And it was fast.

In the wake of this technological revolution, British streets looked different. The phone box died.

The local shop died - brought to its knees by Tesco then kicked when it was down by online shopping. The Royal Mail found itself fighting for its very existence. Record stores were dying out. CDs were suddenly as dead as vinyl. Because now music was downloaded - from iTunes to iPod to earhole. And there were plenty of places where you get your MP3 files for free.

An entire generation was growing up in the Noughties believing that things we had traditionally paid for - such as music, newspapers and entertainment - were free.

Which was the great irony of the age. Because this was the decade when the money tree died.

We were so accustomed to prosperity at the start of the decade that by the time the global economy went pear-shaped at the end, we still found it hard to grasp the fact that everything had changed.

The decade began with capitalism crowing at its triumph and the only rival ideology - Communism - looking like one of the great failures of the 20th century.

By the end of the Noughties, almost nobody still believed in freewheeling capitalism.

Were we really only two decades from the greed-is-good philosophy embodied by Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Gekko, the Michael Douglas character inWall Street? It felt like unrepentant capitalists were as distant - and as wrong-headed - as members of the Flat Earth Society.

Entire nations were going broke. Dubai had a pounds 12million party for a new hotel, boasting a performance by Kylie Minogue and a firework display that could be seen from space. By the end of the decade, Dubai was broke - $80billion in the hole, with no hope of repaying its loans.

Fuelled by a feverish property boom, the global banking system was rotten with bad debt. Casino capitalists loaned far too much money, far too easily, and now it turned out that much of it would never be repaid. Lehman Brothers expired in the autumn of 2008, and for a while it seemed that the entire banking system would go down with it.

SALARIES were still paid. Cash machines were still working. But for the first time in our lives, we understood that this could change, and that the capitalist system could possibly - as Karl Marx predicted - carry the seeds of its own destruction.

In the end, governments bailed out the bankers with taxpayers' money, effectively nationalising or part-nationalising them.

But the bankers showed little sign that they had learned their lesson, and the national debts would take generations to pay off.

At the end of the Noughties, raised taxes and slashed public services seemed on the cards whoever was in power.

It was not only man-made problems that blighted the Noughties. Our unpredictable, untamed planet unleashed some of the great natural disasters in human history. An earthquake under the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day 2004 created a tsunami that struck 15 countries leaving 200,000 dead, nearly two million homeless and 40,000 still missing.

Like 9/11, the Boxing Day tsunami was a disaster for all mankind - although it happened on the other side of the world, both Sweden and Germany lost over 500 citizens in the tragedy.

Elsewhere, Hurricane Katrina almost destroyed New Orleans. There were terrible earthquakes in China and India.

Cyclone Nargis left at least 146,000 dead in Burma, with thousands more missing.

There had always been natural disasters. But the scale of what the world endured in the Noughties made the planet feel as though it had been pushed to breaking point. In the Noughties it sometimes felt as if planet Earth itself was dying.

The Copenhagen conference in the last weeks of the Noughties was meant to put the brakes on global warming.

It broke up with bitter recriminations between China and America. The USA had their industrial revolution two centuries ago, and the People's Republic of China were having the same transformation now and they did not enjoy being told to slow down by yesterday's men.

For all the advances made in this brave new world, there were constant reminders of the baser side of human nature.

How far had we really come? From the first to the last, we were watched by the smiling photographs of children who were murdered or missing.

Sarah Payne, nine, murdered by Roy Whiting in July 2000. Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, both 10, murdered by caretaker Ian Huntley.

And Madeleine McCann, stolen from her bed in Portugal in 2007.

The faces of these four little girls in those photographs, captured in moments of heartbreaking, happy innocence, haunted the decade, and our dreams.

The decade was bookended by 9/11 and economic collapse. Both had the mood of Armageddon about them. In the Noughties, as soon as the champagne bottles of Millennium Eve were put in the recycling bins, we were constantly being reminded exactly how fragile our civilisation is, and exactly how bad things could get.

The greed of bankers drove our way of life to the very edge of collapse. The lying and cheating of politicians made us lose our faith in the democracy that our fathers and grandfathers fought wars to preserve. And planet earth itself often seemed to be going out of its mind.

That was the Noughties for you - great leaps forward, accompanied by terrible steps back.

And always just a whisper away from chaos.


HAUNTING Madeleine was taken in 2007 VICTIMS Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman TWITTER BUG Celebs such as Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher shared trivia PLAYING AROUND Tiger Woods' wife Elin (below) intercepted 'sexts' from his mistress Rachel Uchitel (left) CRUNCH BUNCH Bank employees console each other after Lehman Brothers collapse HURRICANE FORCE New Orleans freeways underwater after Katrina
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Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 30, 2009
Next Article:WOSS: BBC IS OCCASIONALLY DROSS; He's in hot water with yet another bad gag.

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