It’s hard to know how to define the 2010s, but OMG it's #2020

It’s not that I’ve slept through the past 10 years. But I’m sleepless, not “woke.” I’m so “unwoke” that I still use the initials “PC.”

A placard with the hashtag '#MeToo' is seen on the desk of a European Parliament member during a debate in October 2017.  (photo credit: CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS)
A placard with the hashtag '#MeToo' is seen on the desk of a European Parliament member during a debate in October 2017.
It’s hard to know how to define the 2010s. For a start, the term “2010s” itself is so awkward. Second, despite working and playing with words, I’ve found it hard to keep up with the crop of terms the decade just ending produced. And thirdly, so many definitive phrases shrunk into Internet abbreviations – LOL – or emerged as emojis, GIFs and memes. I have barely got used to giving a “thumbs up” emoji instead of voicing an opinion.
It’s not that I’ve slept through the past 10 years. But I’m sleepless, not “woke.” I’m so “unwoke” that I still use the initials “PC.” I don’t have “hipster” friends. And it took me a while to figure out WTF is WTF, even though I make an effort to avoid living only within the confines of an “echo chamber” in my comfort zone.
“Woke” is definitely one of those decade-dependent words – a decade in which the Western world obsessed over social justice issues and identity politics. Sadly, for all the ostensible “inclusiveness” of the last 10 years, it is ending with polarization being its outstanding feature.
It was a decade in which “I” – as in the first letter of Instagram – was a hit. The selfie craze became such a thing that some people would do anything for that perfect shot – including cosmetic surgery to put noses in proportion with a selfie stick in mind. For some people, getting the perfect shot was the last thing they did. They died in the process, falling off cliffs, or stepping into traffic, etc. It seems so Darwinian, but the development of “dronies,” using drones to take photos, might be the cure. Altogether, the use of drones in both war and peace seems set to mark the next decade.
The most symbolic selfie was taken by president Barack Obama together with British prime minister David Cameron and Danish premier Helle Thorning-Schmidt in December 2013 at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Courtesy of Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and the wonders of the web, “selfies at funerals” became a recognized genre, which says a lot about the decade now ending. It was the TMI-period. Too Much Information. Period.
Perhaps the importance of looks and being social media savvy is what gave birth to the generation of international leaders and “influencers” who had barely come of age when the 2000s (The Noughties) began. This week my Facebook feed was full of stories of newly elected Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, age 34.
YouTubers and Instagram stars earned both fame and fortune this decade. (Income tax authorities are struggling to keep up.) Vlogging, video blogs, were a sensation. The days when people wrote in a diary and hid it from prying eyes are long gone. At least 10 years.
The social media can be used to do good – to bring people together, to create a positive change – or they can do just the opposite.
There is no place to hide from cyber bullies. The sort of taunting that once could be shut out by closing the door now penetrates through the Windows. Once upon a time – in fairy tales – trolls were giant, mythical, Scandinavian creatures. Now they are out there, preying on anyone who ventures into the virtual world. And “shaming” is a double-edged sword: It can be used to promote
responsible behavior or it can be abused to cause lasting – even lethal – harm.
THE HASHTAG helped define this decade. Where would the 2010s be without the ubiquitous # sign. Would “#MeToo” even be considered a movement without it? Hashtags played an integral role in bringing demonstrators together in social protests from the “Occupy” movement to the Arab Spring. (The name is a seasonal misnomer if ever there was one. The “spring” started in December 2010 and arguably is not yet fully over.)
In 2011, in an interview with Radio New Zealand, I tried to explain why Israelis called their social protests The Cottage Cheese Revolution. It was because the price of the popular food helped kick off the protest movement, I noted, adding only partly in jest: “And imagine what would happen if Israelis were to use the word ‘Occupy’?”
The United Nations would have felt obliged to dedicate hours of debates to Israel’s latest “act of belligerency” – while ignoring the millions being massacred around the world.
This was an era when Israelis often found themselves linguistically at odds with the outside world: Our idea of a “safe place” is a rocket-proof shelter and it’s hard to dwell on “microaggressions” when your home is suffering from rocket barrages and waves of terrorism. That’s why the Israeli defense establishment came up with the phrase “Hama’aracha bein hamilhamot” – “the campaign between wars” – to define this period. The acronym MABAM – the Israeli military excels at creating acronyms – refers to thwarting attempts by the country’s enemies, especially Iran, to build up their military presence on the borders and to boost Israeli deterrence enough to postpone a full-scale conflict.
“Kipat Barzel” – the Iron Dome anti-rocket system – is one of my favorite terms of all times.
You can’t belittle the role of social media in the decade just ended. The Palestinians in Gaza launched thousands of rockets on Israel in the hope of getting a “trophy shot” of dead Jews. And few phenomena were as chilling as the carefully crafted executions by Islamic State, meant to attract new supporters and strike terror at the same time. The terrorist organization that wanted to take the world back to medieval times was extraordinary adept in the use of modern online media. At some point in the future – sooner rather than later – international law is going to have to catch up with the virtual world’s reality, with Big Data and the Internet of Things.
ANOTHER BUZZWORD – “intersectionality” – seemed to include everyone but the Jews. When being perceived as a “victim” was a fashion, Jews are automatically considered “white” and “privileged” no matter what shade their skin color or situation. And despite having a population worldwide of fewer than 15 million, Jews somehow are not considered a minority. Antisemitism raised its ugly head everywhere, a “privilege” all Jews would be happy to forgo. Among the acronyms I have learned to hate is BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) whose goal is the destruction of Israel by other means.
Personally, I find it “toxic,” to use another catchphrase.
When did stating the obvious become “mansplaining”? Obviously sometime in the past decade. Wait a minute, I can ask my “virtual assistant.” She’ll know the answer.
We live in linguistically-interesting times. The advance of the “non-binary” spectrum provided particular challenges for those of us who speak gender-specific languages like Hebrew. And I couldn’t keep up with the ever-increasing initials of the “LGBTQIA+.”
“Snowflakes” (ultra-Liberals) felt most threatened by “climate change” (even after it changed its name from “Global Warming.”) But The Cloud has nothing to do with the weather.
“Uber” changed from being something with uncomfortable associations to being a taxi service. And everything became dependent on rating systems. Such were the alternative facts of life in the 2010s. If you don’t like it, you can “swipe left,” “cancel, or “ghost” someone or simply blame it all on “fake news.”
Last year, in honor of the country’s 70th anniversary, the Hebrew Language Academy produced a compilation of words representing each year and a special hit parade with a favorite word for each decade. As the academy noted, “every period can be characterized by photos, tunes, objects or items of clothing, and it can also be characterized by a word.” Literally a word in time.
Not surprisingly, yisumon (app) was chosen as the word of the country’s seventh decade. Lagging far behind were partzufonim (emoticons) and patzhan (hacker).
I’m intrigued and apprehensive regarding what words will come to define our lives, for better or for worse, as the next decade progresses. Sometimes I feel like I need a “staycation,” to “binge” on Netflix. But I might suffer from “FOMO,” Fear Of Missing Out. And, after all, as the “millennials” appreciate: “YOLO” – You Only Live Once.