Memories of a Millennial

Memories of a Millennial
  •  emoticon

I like having older friends. Conversations can be fascinating, and offer such a tremendous wealth of vivid historical insight into the eras before yours. Having dinner with a significantly older friend the other other night, I was, as usual, interrogating her about all sorts of stuff. Do you remember a time when divorce was still taboo? When did gambling start to catch on? Was it scandalous when you started wearing pants?

Yes yes, she replied, I’ve seen a lot. But not all social change takes 100 years to unfold. Can’t you think of a few major cultural shifts that have happened in your own lifetime?

It was a question that really got me thinking. I guess cultural and social attitudes have changed a bit in the 27 years I’ve been alive, though I feel anyone under 30 is instinctively disposed to pretend they haven’t. True social change is something only old people witness.

Since then, I’ve been digging far into my earliest memories to try and dredge up revealing case studies of the past. If I ever live to be an old man, after all, it will be the memories of my youth that will likely prove the most interesting to others, since, as I mentioned in an earlier post, by the time we “millennials” die, I imagine our births in the 1980s or early 1990s will seem as quaint and distant as those of the late-era Victorians, when they died in the 1970s and 80s.

As the cartoon suggests, one of the main cultural evolutions I can honestly say I’ve witnessed thus far has been a steady lessening of what constitutes a “crude” or “offensive” act. I vividly recall that one of the first articles I ever read in the “adult newspaper” was an angry editorial documenting why Tiny Toon Adventures was among the “worst shows on television,” on account of all the gross-out humor and sass-mouth it contained. And of course anyone who grew up in the 1990s will remember the long national psychosis that followed the release of the original Mortal Combat in 1993, a game so monstrously gory that blood actually came out of characters when they hit each other.

To the extent I’m as square and squeamish as I am today when it comes to things like profanity and violence, I think a lot of it dates back to those heady days, when there were still significant social taboos against polluting the airwaves or video screens with content deemed morally subversive. Now, of course, when you look back at the first few seasons of The Simpsons the back talk seems positively heartwarming by modern standards. The once “wickedly subversive” Calvin and Hobbes is now venerated for its maudlin bourgeoisie sensibilities. Even last year’s re-release of good ol’ Beavis and Butt-head generated considerable skepticism that the duo were “edgy” enough for today’s teens.

Being gay, I suppose the other main social trend I’m obligated to acknowledge is the widespread revolution in gay rights that happened during my early years. In practice, however, I’ve always felt that the broader phenomenon of homosexual acceptance by mainstream society unfolded in such perfect sync with my own, internal acceptance that the larger societal evolution was barely noticeable until the conclusion.

I can certainly remember having no clear idea of what homosexuality even was until high school, and even then, it was mostly something discussed in a sort of confused, quiet way by even the most progressive teacher. Kids teased each other about things being “gay,” obviously, but it certainly wasn’t something I remember any of us being lectured to stop saying — as I understand today’s kids constantly are. Despite my own bias, I agreed with the majority on the student council that a “gay straight alliance” club seemed needlessly provocative and pointless in a small school such as ours, where obviously no gays existed. Now, of course, I just take it for granted that there should be openly gay people everywhere, but I do often wonder what it would be like to be a modern child growing up with the same knowledge.

But beyond gays and vulgarity, I’ve really had a hard time conjuring up conscious, surviving memories of social values that have visibly deviated over the last couple of decades. Asking other friends my age about the topic, I’ve found it’s a question that really has a tendency to stump. So I thought I’d open it up to you guys, my readers.

If we put aside the obvious spectacle of technological advancement (which, really is something every generation experiences in a broadly similar way) what would top your list of ways in which the 2010s are noticeably different than the 1980s or 1990s of your youth? I realize we all don’t have photographic memories and that evolving politico-cultural trends were hardly interesting to young kids in the first place, but in some ways that makes the whole question all the more poignant.

What left enough of an impact in your youth to give you the confidence to say “this is different now” in young adulthood?


  1. @WinnipegFatArse

    Other day I was talking about cultural & societal shifts with my 15 year old daughter. I was telling her that since my birth in mid-60s our society has been greatly transformed by our collective lack of respect for the art of reflection. She laughed, saying: "Oh Dad, that's so fucking typical. I don't have time to worry about such things. Hey, can we have fast food for supper?"

  2. Dude

    I have to ask – was it intentional?

  3. Trevor Martens

    I'm not sure if you're familiar with the globalization 3.0 idea, but something you might want to explore. The internet has created a much smaller, more communicative world (in part, the reason why we see so much protest to things like SOPA). If anything the true driving force behind any cultural change of the last decade and a half, at least in the civilized world, has been the internet itself, and the companies and people that can utilize it to its full potential and expand on it. Most of us now don't even know people that don't have internet, its rather spread-out throughout Canada, and living in an area which doesn't have large-spread communication to the internet (or even wifi in our coffee shops!) seems so abstract and distant as to be almost barbaric.

    Another noteworthy change, or course, is China. Although we are considerably more friendly with them than the US, China has advanced amazingly since I was a kid when the thought of China being anything but a poverty-stricken, 3rd world country full of collectivists wasn't even a morsel of an idea in the heads of anyone but the most left-wing socialists. Now, China is substantially different, significant human rights have finally begun to take shape in the country, they will soon be the economic powerhouse of the world, and we might even seen a true democratic election in the next few years. I personally know a few Chinese students who tell me the country really isn't as bad as we all think it is since, even though there is still considerable censorship of opinions on the radio and tv, the Chinese facebook and other social medias have allowed a huge increase in the free speech of the country and the sharing of ideas.

    Also, Grunge, the popularity of the idea of the anti-hero, and the acceptance of gaming into the societal norms, D&D might be primarily nerds but I don't know any men, jock, nerd, or otherwise, that don't own at least one console.

  4. @MHR_Topher

    One of the biggest social changes I've seen has been the focus of privacy as a right. While privacy has often been assumed, and respected, in the past with the arrival of the internet, the Patriot Act in the United States, and a rising sense of empowerment by today's younger generation, the belief that privacy is a key change in the discussion of social media and government powers. While I personally have little care for privacy and would be fine with it being invaded, this discussion does carry weight in today's world.

    The two biggest things that are striking to me center around the growth in social media (where those fighting for privacy are so willing to open up themselves to the world) and the fight for privacy and freedom of speech by actually invading others privacy and stifling speech (Anonymous, Wikileaks, etc). Now these two groups are presented as an interesting dichotic because both claim the right to privacy yet both seem to act differently than they believe and say. One claims privacy but excessively promotes one's daily life while the other claims to be a defender of privacy and freedom yet active subverts those rights in others in the name of the rights they are exploiting.

    Now with those using modern social media, they do willing expose themselves yet they retain their right to a private life if they so choose, but the fact they are so strongly opinionated about privacy yet don't use that right is strange. It would be like me loudly defending my right to live healthy and not having others ruin my heath and then going and smoking.

    Now obviously privacy has been debated for years, but with the growth of the internet and legislation in place seen by some as an invasion of privacy, I expect the debate to grow not shrink. So while the topic may have come to the surface because of the growth of technology, it is about both the technological world as well as back in the physical world as well.

    Great article, I'm working on my masters of sociology so I enjoy this type of discussion. I completely agree that the view of authority has changes within this generation, as has desensitization towards what past generations may have viewed as violence and profanity.

  5. Emiel Suilen

    The totally different scale of communications. When I grew up in the 80s and 90s, computers were already appearing, but the notion of connecting them to each other, or websites, was totally alien. But even more obvious was the slowness and scale of communication. Now, everybody has mobile phones, everybody can send emails by the 100s a day, but back then, you were happy if you got a card a week, or a telephone call from friends. Now, when you have your birthday, you receive 40+ birthday greetings, dozens of text messages, emails…
    The same applies for news. In the 80s, you had your daily newspaper, and news in the evening on television. But right now any world leader just has to fart and CNN will bring a Breaking News.
    The technological advances of the past 30 years cannot be discounted in observing social changes, especially in communications.

  6. drs

    When my friend traveled South America in the 1990s, she sent letters, and letters to her had to go to the main post office Post Restante. Now… well, if you’re going to Amazon or Patagonia and stuff, maybe you’d still need that, but I can go to Chile and keep in touch via cell Internet. Also, get GPS maps.

    I cannot remember how I found the Libertarian Party in 1988. Somehow I went from L. Neil Smith novels to them, but how? Now it’d just be the Internet, but somehow I made the connection then, and had to write away to get sent stuff.

    Yes, gays. From barely acknowledged to marriage in lots of places.

    Fall of the USSR, end of Cold War.

  7. lukev

    You could always get a call from across the globe, but getting photos would be an expensive and time-consuming process.

  8. J.J. McCullough

    I have memories of a friend going to South America in the 90s, too, actually, and I remember he may as well have been on the moon. I'd get the occasional letter, but of course he'd never waste money on a long distance phone call to one of his little friends. I guess in the old days, "getting away from it all" really meant it. Now we basically assume that no trip, no matter how far away, should significantly harm one's ability to communicate.

  9. Kento

    My sister went to Antarctica last year, that's a little far yet.

  10. Taylor

    -A general blending of interests. You don't see as rigid of a social divide as there used to be, ie, someone on the hockey team can talk about Star Wars stuff, etc. In a way, allows for variety, although I think it makes everybody's interests a little too similar.
    -On the same tack, pop culture obsession is kinda amped up.
    -Lack of temporality. Someone in the 1970s wouldn't be caught dead listening to music from the 1940s, but modern teenagers listen to Pink Floyd and Zepplin and watch Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Breakfast Club.
    -Shorter attention spans, although I think older folks are also getting shorter.

  11. Taylor

    PS I like your Parasite drawing (Or is it worker?)

  12. @fardmuhammad

    Good catch. :)

    Krusty's response was also excellent. :)

  13. Dan

    When I was in middle school I didn't know any gay kids, but some of my friends were always talking about their friend Dorthy…I wasn't up on my lingo.

  14. TheLurker

    I remember when the personal computer was still a novelty. I don't remember the time before VCRs but I remember when only "rich" people had them.

    I remember, at least among some people, a respect for the office of the US President that you just don't see today. I remember specifically my mother (as staunch a Republican as I have ever known) objecting to the appearance of Bill Clinton as a secret character in NBA Jam on the basis that it was "disrespectful." On a different occasion, I remember being scolded for mocking him.

  15. @ThePsudo

    I don't know if it was a symptom of the time period or of an upbringing that discouraged too much TV, but I remember people spending a lot more time away from screens than they do now.

    @WinnipegFatArse reminds me: I also didn't know what the F-bomb was until I was about 15. It seems that a lot of people consider TV unreal because people don't swear, whereas it took me a long time to take people online seriously when they swear readily and unashamedly. It seemed so foreign and charactertured that I figured it proved they were acting a part rather than being themselves.

    I remember when having even one console (the NES) was considered a luxury at $90-150 each and phone bills were $40 or so per household. Now one is almost mandated for every household at $300 a piece, and everyone has a $300 smart phone with a $100/month unlimited plan. I think a higher technological expectation has increased the expense of normal living; everyone is a little poorer compared to that raised bar.

    At the start of Larry Niven's book Ringworld, the main character travels around the world and opines about how similar every place is. Fashions, slang, and habits are the same the world over, and he is bored with it all. That sentiment is absolutely prophetic. We have Bronies from Thailand protesting SOPA and Europeans teasing Americans for missing some new Anime. The world is so connected and mutually imitating each other that individuality and cultural identity are fading away. Only third world poverty (like central Africa) or abject societal isolation (like the Amish) counters that trend in the slightest, and even they feel the pinch.

    I'm not claiming it's a sign of the end times, it just seems like it'd be awfully boring if everywhere in the world was the same.

  16. Taylor

    I remember walking in Germany, and seeing about 6 stacked palates of empty Corona bottles. Kinda depressing.

  17. Eric Lester

    Growing up in a small town in Kentucky I have seen a pretty broad change in acceptance of homosexuality. Here culture tend to be several years behind that of larger cities, but I think the Internet is closing this gap. When I talk to kids who are in the 16-20 year old range and attend(ed) the same high school as myself they talk about there being a "gay clique" the same as there might have been a jock or computer nerd clique when I was in school. Although it is still seen as a flaw by many youth in this area being "gay" has also become somewhat fashionable. A way to set yourself apart from the small town image.

    At 27, however, I am the youngest of my coworkers by nearly 15 years. Their attitudes toward homosexuality seem to be unchanged from what I saw as a teenager. They still widely take for granted that no one is secretly gay around us and that it is something that everyone finds worth a good laugh.

    The other biggest change I can think of is knowledge of religions. I do not think I was aware of Islam until I took a world civilization class in the 10th grade and we studied the 5 major world religions. Even then I felt like the class was incredibly progressive. Now (I would assume) you would be hard pressed to find a teenager that could not identify the religion of a woman in a hijab. It is also now, in many ways, a bigger social taboo to criticize someone else's religion than to be ignorant of it.

  18. Gastel

    When in University one of my best friends was black and I had not had any black friends up to that point as I was born and raised in a very white community (although it didn't seem racist, just small and with no draw to most people). One day she was in my kitchen and I noticed her shirt with two people back to back and linking arms. One of them was dark-skinned and the other light-skinned but both were negro. I asked her it the shirt had any significance and she said that it was a solidarity shirt to reduce racism within the black community. She elaborated to indicate that dark-skinned negro females were discriminated against by negro males, who apparently preferred light-skinned or Caucasian females. I was blown away.

    This was 1995 and I thought that racism was a thing of the past for the most part, and here she was opening my eyes to her experience. Now she was much more of an expert on living with racism than I was (being from a fairly insular group), but it made me angry and I didn't have the past experience to know how to deal with this sort of discrimination.

    Anyway, I think back on that conversation quite a bit as I am a teacher now and deal daily with anti-gay overtones. I support the GSAs in the schools I work in, I try to quash and educate the individuals who pour out hateful comments and I try to be someone who students can approach if there is something going on.

    Now I believe that gay rights have moved forward over my lifetime, but I keep thinking about the shirt and how I was so blind to the real level of discrimination. Am I blind to the level of discrimination on this issue? It scares me, because the thought of the hate being out there is a scary one.

    I know it is out there too, because I wear a rainbow peace symbol while teaching (a lot of teachers at my school do as part of a GSA initiative), and I sometimes wear it even at home. I was coming out of a mall one day and some guys were loitering at the entrance and one called me a very derogatory name. There were quite a few of them, so I just pretended not to hear and went to my car. Wow, it was like the shirt. I felt the fear and anger and still didn't know what to do.

    Great article.

  19. @ThePsudo

    I remember that dark vs. mocha conflict coming up when it was announced that Hallie Berry would be playing Storm in the first X-Men movie, which was not accurate to the comic books. A lot of white boys heard about that social friction for the first time for that reason, and the discussion usually segued into hair and other racial characteristics.

    That fits into my point about global assimilation: why should everyone's taste be the same? Why can't fictional characters stand out, not just a little but way the heck out there, and be considered strikingly beautiful? Why is one standard of beauty treated as universal?

  20. Dude

    I think of so many things that sound like great ideas – instant communication, explosion of subcultures, 24-hour news, abundance of distractions, ubiquity of information – but those all basically come down to computer networking. It's a profound shift, but as you say, one that previous generations have experienced their own equivalents to. So let's try for some others:

    – Neurotic parenting is up, even as reasons for it are down.
    – Adult-aimed TV shows(i.e., HBO and friends) are about a thousand times better than they were 20 years ago. I wasn't watching them then(I'm 26), but the only way you could find anything even close to Game of Thrones or The Wire then was on the big screen, but event then you had two or three hours tops to tell the whole story. Plot arcs sixty or as hundred hours long are something that just didn't exist then.
    – This might be a function of my age, but it seems to me that all things pornographic are vastly more accepted today than in past.

  21. @Kisai

    Hmm. I do remember a time before my parents had a VCR in the 80's. I remember before we had cable out there, we'd come to Grandma's place in Vancouver and record cartoons from TV to take back. We had cable for a while and then canceled it. I found it funny when I mentioned it on a school bus trip (I don't remember where) but some of the parents were like "I won't let my kids watch that."

    But at the same time… Kids didn't really start that behavior unless they had TV. I'm not blaming TV, but the fact that parents were just as oblivious to what they were letting their kids watch on TV in the 80's, Video games in the 90's and social media now means that parents are just not keeping ahead of technology (or choosing ignorance.) In some ways this is a preferred situation, as we have a period of freedom to innovate a technology or social movement before there is an outcry to "protect the children" or "protect our jobs" from the lawyers and politicians.

    Just look at SOPA as great example of trying to close the barn door after the horses have left. The people writing the laws don't have enough understanding (choosing ignorance) to write laws on the behalf of everyone.

    I predict the next 30 years will be more of the same, as new social and technology doors are opened, the people writing laws are falling farther and farther behind in closing them. The same is happening with jobs. In 30 years, you'll either have several clients to Just-in-time to work for, whenever you want/need to, or you'll be working for one place until you die because you can't afford to retire.

  22. jeremyturcotte

    Most of my family comes from the Pontiac, an overwhelmingly Anglophone Protestant area of western Quebec; I also lived there from ages 6 to 11. Most of my early childhood memories of local affairs there are of clashes between businesses and the language police enforcing French signage. There hasn't been anything like that for a while now.
    This was also when Quebec desegregated the school boards. I was in a Protestant school until the end of 3rd grade, when my school was shut down and everyone was moved to the old Catholic school. This was a big deal at the time to the older Anglo generation: my mother had went to that same school.
    These days, though, the old resentments have died down, and most Anglo kids in the area can speak French, while most Anglo adults can't. Whether it's a case of Trudeau's vision of a bicultural Canada coming fulfilled in some small way, or the might of the Francophone hegemony in the province crushing ethnic minorities, is hard to tell. But things are definitely different.

    PS. My family got its first PC in 1997, and it was the first thing we owned that could play CDs.

  23. Thomas

    Someone else already mentioned the fall of the USSR, which is a significant social event int he past 20 years. So I won't bother to much on that.

    However I don't think we will be like late-era victorians were treated. You have to remember the victorians basically died on the fields of ww1 and the sickness afterwards. You go from cultural and social groups that are essentially the same for years pre-war to after war that there is an entirely new identity and it is mainly the upcoming generation with the surviving older generation not caring anymore and letting loose.

    Quite literally the victorian era is quaint because it died 1914-18. A sharp, sudden stop to generation's worth of social values. Then decades of recovery from the shock of that war, then another war. Then never before seen growth and advancements on almost all fronts.

    Today we haven't had, and might not ever, a sudden break with our social and cultural values. That a world war can bring. Much of the things we think have changed really haven't changed in other places. If I would hazard a guess of what the next 50 years might be is that we will probably have a lot more proxy wars over things we think we would never fight over. Like advertising on the moon or something.

  24. Ben

    I agree with the article for the most part. One bit of nerd cred though – it's "Mortal Kombat." With a "K." :)

  25. Bill Stephens

    I just turned 48 last week. I love showing my friends who are in their late 20's – early 30's what life was like before they were born (my favo(u)rite is when my Flyers won the Stanley Cup back-to-back in the mid-1970s. Another time, which was actually me showing my friends something that was even before my time, I loved seeing the looks on their faces, never having seen a commercial for cigarettes, is how the Flintstones (which were the inspiration for the Simpsons, and was an adult cartoon in its own right), were hawking Winstons at the end of the show – the characters themselves were selling cigarettes! It's all over YouTube, but take a look at this clip:

  26. Bill Stephens

    A better clip :

  27. Matt Donaldson

    Biracial couples! I'm more Generation X than Millenial, but when I was a kid, it was a really big deal to see people with different skin colors dating, let alone find it on tv. It was just one of those unspoken things, remnants of all of America's not-dead-yet racist grandparents (and parents!) . I grew up in a very white, very privileged area, so it wasn't something I dealt with everyday, but remember feeling really awkward when I saw a picture of one of my college instructors with her husband. I'm very glad that, in most of the country, we're beyond that. Aren't we?

  28. Dude

    Part of that might just be how many more immigrants there are now – it's a lot rarer to have biracial couples when you only have one race around. I know a reasonable number of mixed-race folks my own age(26) though, so I'm not going to say that's a huge change.

  29. Virgil

    More vulgarity on the air, but more acceptance of people who are not vulgar. More acceptance of people who listen to different types of music and who live a bit differently. More of a celebration of brains, less of a focus on cultural trends. More variety in general, less societal compulsion. Less adherents to socialism or communism (at least openly). Music no longer changes markedly from one decade to another. Generally, more acceptance but there is no longer a unifying culture to the same degree.

  30. Svan

    Long term thinking can be expressed in the next few minutes. When you ask someone what they're going to do you might get back five or six activities that can all be completed together and finished within moments. We've made behaviors scalable in ways they never were, especially in leisure. A detailed food plan might become enmeshed with a detailed music plan inside of a detailed game plan inside of a detailed exercise plan inside of a detailed work plan etc.

  31. FabiusQuintusMaximus

    Perhaps the biggest change I have noticed is that in the 90s we often had to 'agree to disagree'. I know we were trying to avoid technological change, but the ease with which you can simply whip out your phone and look the answer up on wikipedia has made disagreements much less heated.

  32. @ThePsudo

    Wikipedia, Snopes, Google, and other easy sources have made it easier to get a lot of data, but not deep analysis or independent verification. I still end up agreeing to disagree often enough. Factoids seem to stand where ignorance once stood, but deep understanding is not much more common.

  33. J.J. McCullough

    One thing I quite hate about this phenomenon is the way it's killed the idea of learning through conversation. Increasingly, I notice that whenever I innocently ask someone for a fact, I'm told to just "look it up," as if there's nothing to gain from learning from other people directly.

  34. Eric Stimson

    I KNOW! I hate it when people do that too.

  35. Yannick

    Have to agree, I've been refered to the "here let me google that for you" website before. It's so freaking condescending.

  36. Cinematic

    I was one of those kids who wasnt allowed to watch the simpsons, and so I ended up watching family guy without my parents knowing and never really watched the simpsons

  37. alejandro

    I am 20 but I have seen the fall of communist and ultra right wing paramilitary groups in Colombia, the end of the cold war and the begging of the so called Pax Americana in 1993 till the current day. The degradation and loss of the Dewey decimal system and the rise of Wikipedia and Google to replace the common center for the exchange of history and knowledge of time past. (looking up the specifications to the naboo star-fighter in a book checked out from the library is a good example of something people can now do without effort).

    The rise of religious extremism and related terrorism in both America and abroad is a smaller part of the greater picture. Just a few examples for a university student based out of Texas.

    The Waco Siege in 1993
    The Oklahoma city bombing1995
    The Monica Lewinsky scandal involving then president Clinton
    The Y2k movement and the associated rise of the internet, 1995-1999
    9/11 and War on Terror 2001-present
    The administration of Alvaro Uribre and the implementation of Plan Colombia 2002-2010
    The Iraq War
    China's return to preeminence
    The rise of a unified Europe
    The election of Barack Obama and his apparent vindication of George W. Bush's and more shockingly Dick Cheney's security apparatus.
    The rise of piracy (both physical with boats and information)
    The backlash against both forms of piracy (SOPA) and resistance to said backlash.
    The massive and unforeseen expansion of gun rights in response to the Bradly Act and rise of the Militia Movement (1991-Present)
    The degradation of any formal respect to history and politics as a conversation topic and a global growing sense of disenfranchisement and impersonal relationship to any form of government.

  38. spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan

    I'm almost 30 now, so here are a few random observations of how some things have changed since I was a child (in Southern Ontario).

    – Bible classes at my public (non-Catholic) elementary school was phased out when I was in grade 1.
    – Our playground still had jungle gyms, big tires, and all kinds of unsafe stuff you that's becoming less popular with litigation-weary schools
    – More people played sports than played video games. When I was young, it was considered much more nerdy than now to play video games.
    – I used to be able to take a note to the corner store to buy cigarettes for my Mom
    – We rented our rotary phone from Bell and the price was included in our monthly bill
    – Even most of the SitComs used to need a moral or lesson by the end of the show.
    – We used to rent VCRs (since they were so expensive to buy) as a treat when I was young and have 'movie weekends'.
    – Boys usually had their hair cut by male barbers. It's getting increasingly hard to find barbers. Now it's mostly 'hair stylists', and most of those places can't give you a shave.
    – If someone's electronics (such as a TV) stopped working, they'd usually get it repaired. Modern electronics are now much harder to repair, and are often cheaper to replace.

    There are also other things people don't realize. I'm a programmer in a research lab and it's interesting seeing how research was done 40 or 50 years ago (in neuroscience / cognitive science and such, which is the area my lab works in) and how papers were written. Now the statistics backing things up seem to be better, but I wonder if it's partly because complex stats has become a way to mask inconclusive data or 'randomly try to find correlation' which is becoming a problem. And I wonder if it's sometimes at the expense of intuitive understanding of the topics.

    There also seems to have been a bit of a 'death of the neighbourhood'. I used to know pretty much all the kids to some degree for several blocks. Now most of my friends who have kids, they barely even know their neighbours, with their kids instead hanging out with only close friends in other areas. It could simply be self-selection bias in that maybe the type of people I become friends with are insular people…

    Also, interactions between the sexes have changed. Everyone thinks that things are more plural now, but in many ways I wonder if they are less. I remember talking to a grad student from Fine Arts about how in Comp. Sci. there were fewer girls than there used to be a decade ago as an overall percentage. She thought it was interesting because whereas the Fine Arts program used to be relatively evenly split according to her professor, there were now very few men at all in the program. My point above regarding barbers stands as well. It seems that professions now if they tilt too hard towards 'male' or 'female' end up becoming a kind of self-enforcing ghetto.

    I'd really be interested to see some stats on enrollment because it seems there is a growing 'sexual self segregation', thought it could be my imagination.

  39. J.J. McCullough

    Great examples. I've witnessed a lot of these things myself. We used to do bible plays in my (also secular) elementary school, which would probably be some manner of hate crime today.

  40. spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan

    Also, I just realized that the toy you're holding is from Worker And Parasite on the Simpsons, which was your old handle online!

  41. Nanon

    9-11 happened when I was in college. It really did change the way many of us thought. I saw many classmates who were not previously much interested in political stuff, become so because this made it relevant to them–remember how many people know someone who lives in NY… (for myself, I was already politically involved). 9-11 also similarly changed American politics.

    Along the lines of another comment–social groups, with their own vocabulary, dress code norms, social norms, etc.–e.g. hipsters–forming across wide geographic areas, to a greater extent than before.

    I know you said no technology, but… I could not do my job (or it would be a very different beast) without the internet. The internet really is a revolution. It also has created a big separation between internet users and non-internet-users.

    This may have been mostly a change before I was born, but when I was a kid I thought all families ate dinner together almost all the time (and ate homemade food). This seems rare these days.

    Berlin Wall.

    About gayness–I too grew up not having heard of it, then learned about it and the stigma in high school, and now find it normal. I have talked with many people who were more harrassed about it… which bolsters my theory that being around members of a stereotyped group, and exposed to the stereotype, often makes a person more stereotyped than simply not being exposed to them at all. (I hatched this theory based on someone who is racist against blacks despite having lived where there are plenty of black people, presumably including plenty who don't fit the stereotypes, compared with his wife who grew up where there weren't any and is not so racist.)

    This is indeed a hard question.

  42. guest

    Lots of good suggestions – let me throw in one I didn't notice in the comments.
    The growth of childless by choice (or single child) couples.
    As a kid (born 1971) I was one of four kids – and this was pretty normal.
    I now have four children of my own – and most people consider that a huge number!
    Nowadays people wait much longer to have kids, and then only have one or two – if they have any at all.
    I think this is largely tied to economics but it is a pretty big societal change that has happened in my lifetime.

  43. Kento

    I was born in 1988. I can not say my memory of the 90's is good, I was a rather sheltered child, but I feel as if America has become more of a religion during my lifetime. That certain things have been labeled American, and to be aligned with those things is almost an obligation as an American, to not be is offensive.

    In politics, it seems as if an increasing number of policies have been seen by an increasing amount of the electorate and their representatives as fundamental to the nature of the country, rather than primarily pragmatic concerns. While the Super Bowl has always made sure to remind you that you are in the United States by having either the national anthem or America the Beautiful performed, recently both have been performed, and following the sport increasingly seems to be a part of one's American identity in addition to masculine identity. More people seem compelled to display the flag in one form or another. Though this may be wildly off, I sometimes get the feeling that bacon has become some kind of American symbol, not representing America itself, but specific values about how life is best enjoyed that are perceived as American, at least in some indirect way.

    Every tradition in America has become an American tradition.

  44. @ThePsudo

    Are you accusing America of stealing bacon (as a national symbol) from Canada? =]

  45. Kento

    I'm from a state where the state animal is the "American beaver," so it seems like anything goes!

  46. Edward

    Swearing has certainly changed quite a bit since my day – I remember in my first year at secondary school (1994) informing my mother in hushed tones that 'damn' was still considered a bit too sweary for automatic use. Now, of course, anything goes.

    Titles have changed, I'd say – I remember in the 1980s having a teacher introduced to us as 'Ms' and having to discuss it with my parents, who concluded that she was probably divorced (which was another word I needed to have explained to me). Nowadays an unmarried woman only tends to go for 'Miss' if she's making a point.

    The youthfulness of politics – back in the day you could hardly find a full head of hair in the House of Commons unless it belonged to a woman, but now being even slightly elderly is regarded as immediate disqualification. Witness the constant mockery of Sir Menzies Campbell when he was leader of the Lib Dems – people weren't satisfied until he'd resigned to make way for Nick Clegg, who is as youthful as David Cameron, who is himself as youthful as Tony Blair once was.

  47. GolfballDM

    I wore a Wile E. Coyote T-shirt ("Super Genius") at home yesterday.

    My stepson (who is 12) doesn't know most of the cartoon icons (and their respective antics) of my youth. I had to explain who Popeye, Wile E. Coyote, the Roadrunner, and for good measure, Calvin & Hobbes.

    I feel old. [Except, I'm not allowed to feel old, I'm 36, my wife is 41.]

  48. Kento

    Don't let your wife know you posted her age…

  49. @ThePsudo

    I don't care as much about Popeye, but everyone should be familiar with classic Loony Toons and Calvin & Hobbes. They're just pure good.

  50. Bogrod

    "Your bias"? Are you gay? Just curious. I mean, I am.

  51. @ThePsudo

    Yes, J.J. is gay. He says as much a paragraph earlier.

  52. oem software

    RvxKom Internet is written with the capital letter in a sentence, by the way. And hundredths are written not with a point but with a comma. This is according to the standard. And actually everything is very good..!!

  53. J.J. McCullough

    A lot of people have mentioned the fall of the Soviet Union, but in my experience that was much more an event I was told to atribute to my youth rather than one I actually experienced in any meaningful way. My only memory of it was being told by my first or second grade teacher to ignore the words SOVIET UNION on our wall map, since that country didn't exist anymore.

  54. Kento

    I have the same experience, except in middle school around the year 2000. We were not a well funded school.

    The fall of the Soviet Union though can be argued to have caused a sort of "enemy vacuum" for the United States though, which could be part of an explanation for the direction the United States took after the September 11th attacks.

    (I enjoyed your alternative CSA history, and have just thought of a question relating to the fall of the USSR. What kind of relation would Clinton and Bush43, and Obama have had with the Soviet Union, under the rather improbable assumption they had gotten their same positions if the USSR had not fallen?)

  55. Yannick

    I remember the fall of the soviet union, since in 1992 I was in 2nd grade. We were discussing geography, and when I mentionned Russia was the biggest country in the world I was informed by my classmates that I was an idiot, since "Russia didn't exist anymore". It sank beneath the seas or something. They were unwilling to understand that even with a bunch of bits splitting off they still dwarfed Canada.

    But then again, they were 2nd graders who had just been told by their parents that "Russia didn't exist anymore".

  56. Eric Stimson

    Sometimes I feel that a lot of this change in social attitudes is a result of the Internet (at least partially), since it's gotten harder for parents to police their kids and the Internet has very little censorship for minors. MIllennials grew up with the Internet, so its maturation coincided with theirs, making it harder for them to realize this, but for parents letting your kids browse the Internet is a pretty risky gamble. I see a lot of warnings to "ask your parents for permission" on kids' TV commercials when they point viewers to the Net.

    Also, you have to realize that social attitudes still vary greatly from household to household. My best friend grew up watching R-rated movies, whereas some of my sister's friends' parents would closely monitor what films they watched all the way until adulthood.

    I remember being stunned to learn that Elvis was considered controversial.