Some of us may hate end-of-year roundups, but I’m not one of them. I start looking forward to them in mid-November, as the beginnings of the year’s end start to permeate our culture’s subconscious. January was a long time ago for this new father, and I can’t be blamed for not recalling in pristine detail the albums I adored, the movies I savored, the TV shows I binged, the podcasts I devoured, and the books I didn’t finish (new parents will understand).
But this year being the end of a decade also offers a new layer of narrative gold to plunder. We just published our massive 20,000-word Decade in Review series, looking back at the 2010s through the lens of Google and Android, along with some products and services our editors thought signified high points in our technological journeys. We’ve all been there: the first phone that brought us into the Android fold; the smart home doohickey that woke us up to the possibilities of automation; the streaming box that helped us cut the cord. The 2010s were full of these moments.
There were also moments of profound frustration and confusion as the biggest tech companies, Google included, consolidated their ownership of our attention and their influence over our shared culture. YouTube, vast and unending, exposed as a toxic vat for malevolent evangelism. Facebook, the underminer of democracy. Amazon, the everything store with an increasingly onerous toll on the workers that keep it running. The list goes on.
From big tech dominance to small moments of joy and frustration, this decade has almost completely revolved around the smartphone.
For me, though, this was the decade of the dwindling attention span. I’ve written before of how smartphone addiction has impacted my life, and since then I’ve been forced to contend with that behavior in meaningful ways. My daughter, now almost 18-months old, deserves my undivided attention, and I think it’s fitting that as we end the year and decade, I’ve committed to proffering it. I’m nowhere near perfect — I use my phone for work, as many of us do — but I can now leave my phone in another room, or turn it off, without the anxiety and guilt I once felt. Work can wait. The internet will still be there. But this moment, now, is fleeting.
I’ve struggled to write about what becoming a father has meant to me. I’m still coming to terms with its vastness, the magnitude of its effect on my life. When I look at my daughter, I feel a visceral love that’s almost painful, almost inconceivably potent. When I hear her laugh, my body just relaxes — it’s as calming and rejuvenating as any meditation, any drug.
But raising a kid is also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Parents know that it’s a full-time job, and that balancing it with an actual job is no easy task. It requires utilizing the hours dedicated to work work far more effectively, so that when I do close the laptop at a reasonable hour I feel like I’ve done enough. The church-and-state separation becomes considerably more important.
Which brings me back to that other church-and-state consideration: the way we interact with technology, and how it changes us. I was relatively new to this life in 2010, but even at its earliest stages, I knew it would inexorably shape the decade. As tiny and clunky as smartphones were in 2010, there was no doubt they would be the single biggest change to our lives in modern history.
So it’s with that hindsight, and the wells of nostalgia for our favorite devices, that I leave you for the year and the decade. It’s a great honor to shepherd this site into the 2020s, and we’ve got a lot of amazing things planned for next year and well beyond.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your support and criticism throughout the past year and the past decade. We couldn’t have done it without you.
I hope you all had a happy and safe Christmas, Hannukah, and whatever else you celebrate, and I hope your new year is just as bright.