This past decade saw a lot of great technological developments. You probably know what we’re talking about but it also saw a lot of bad. As with anything you have to take the good with the bad and of course life is not all skittles and rainbows but tech has made our lives miserable in many ways during these past ten years. While we apologize if you are trying to forget about a bad experience during the 2010s it is necessary sometimes to rehash some of the failures because it is from those failures that we are supposed to learn.

The Robocall

We start with something that has affected every American who has access to a phone: the robocall. While these did not start in the 2010s (Homer Simpson was doing them long before) they came to the forefront during this past decade. They come at all hours of the day, from local numbers and from non-local numbers. Some of the calls have a real person on the other end, others have a recording and some of them don’t even speak English. Most of these calls are spam or scams but some are legit like reminding you your prescription is ready to be picked up.

The problem has gotten so bad that Americans receive more robocalls than legitimate calls. It costs Americans billions of dollars and it just seems like they cannot be stopped. When one gets shut down another simply pops up. These scams are easy and cheap to operate, making the risk of potential fines or jail time well worth it to the scammers.

While the government has tried to crack down the scope of this may simply be too much. With many of these operations operating outside of the US it may be impossible to stop even though this has been one of the few bipartisan efforts of Congress in recent months.

The Myth Of Unlimited Data

The smartphone has become the dominant way that people communicate during the 2010s. This technology has come a long way in the past decade to the point that nearly everyone in this country has access to one. With both 4G and 5G technology the speed of the Internet on these devices has increased. Before people would just read webpages on their phone, now they are streaming videos and playing games. 

The lure of many phone plans was that they came with unlimited data but what consumers did not know was that when a certain threshold was reached the user would be deprioritized and get slower speeds. Users were understandably frustrated and angry at being throttled but it’s all in the fine print and shrouded in legalese. 

So unlimited data plans were not truly unlimited and it was a hard lesson for consumers. It makes for a more jaded consumer and hopefully a more savvy one, but it is just proof that no one reads the terms of service.

Repealing Net Neutrality

While the jury may still be out on this one (literally) the Internet world was ablaze when the FCC repealed Net Neutrality in 2017. Recently the FCC’s ruling was upheld in court though it also affirmed that individual states could enact their own legislation. California’s legislature passed their own bill but a lawsuit from the Department of Justice was quickly filed. This issue will play out in the courts well into the next decade or it could be nothing to worry about. Time will tell.

Digital Subscriptions

The Internet has changed the way that we consume media during the 2010s. When it comes to entertainment options the old methods of entertainment like cable TV is on the way out and new digital subscriptions are in. 

Cord cutters can still enjoy TV and in a way they have more options than ever before but each of those options requires a subscription (unless you are getting your TV through an antenna). Netflix and Hulu offer streaming services that have lead to many people cutting the cord and other networks like CBS, NBC and Disney offer premium content through a subscription.

In a way this is good for consumers. If a person does not want to watch that content they do not have to pay for it the way they would have had to go through a cable package but these networks are moving popular content to those services. The prices for each of these may not be much but the cost of these do add up and in the end to achieve the same level of service that we had before with a cable package could wind up costing more.

Data Breaches And Ransomware

During the 2010s we have put more of our information online than ever before and the Internet has become more important, not only in our lives but how businesses and government organizations conduct business. It seems like nearly every week there is a major data breach occuring exposing our information to thieves. The breaches occurred from a lack of security and in some cases a lack of interest in cyber security.

This has lead to a new evolution of attacks known as ransomware. An infected system in hijacked, locked and held for ransom. If the victim pays the ransom in an untraceable cryptocurrency the system will be unlocked otherwise they are forced to wipe their system clean and start over. This has affected businesses large and small as well as city governments like in Baltimore and New Orleans and entities in San Francisco and Johannesburg, South Africa. These attacks can bring a city to a halt or even potentially cut off power or other essential services.

Loss Of Privacy

When you put something on the Internet it is there, probably to stay. The Internet has taken any vestige of digital privacy and thrown it out the window during the 2010s. The Internet of Things has made our lives more convenient but have opened up numerous security and privacy issues. What the companies do with the data that we provide or that they get from the devices that we install has become a major bone of contention in 2019.

And of course it is not just the Internet of Things. Social media platforms (particularly Facebook) has come under fire for how they handle user information. It came to the forefront during the Cambridge Analytica scandal and has not gone away. 

Social Media

Social media did not begin in this decade but the 2010s have seen an explosion of its usage. Nearly every American that is of age is on at least one social media platform. Social media has given everyone a voice, which has lead to both people expressing unsavory opinions and to people being perpetually offended by anything and everything. It seems to bring out the worst in people.

Social media has made it easier for the digital pitchfork wielding mob to engage and to damage individuals and businesses. It has made it easier for people to make threats against others or in some cases to bring real world harm to individuals (see Swatting). It also allows for people to witness some of the most shocking events around the world in real time.

Popular trends for individuals seeking social media stardom have also hit the net. Recent trends like ice cream licking or spitting mouthwash or soda back into a container have made the rounds of social media. Not only has this disgusted most consumers it has forced stores or companies to recall or throw away their products to prevent contamination. Fortunately many of these fads pass quickly once the real world consequences are presented but social media has made people value likes more than common sense.

The Selfie

With the rise of social media people of course wanted to post pictures of themselves in cool locations. The selfie was born and was guaranteed to get lots of likes. Whether it is at the rim of the Grand Canyon, on Liberty Island or scuba diving it is a guaranteed way to get people to notice. 

Unfortunately people like to push the limits to find the perfect selfie. This has lead to economic damage like people trampling fields of tulips in Holland to people putting themselves into dangerous situations, all for the perfect pic. Somewhere around 250 people have died during the 2010s, all in the name of the selfie. Survival of the fittest?

We like to think that people do learn from their mistakes and with tech that is hopefully no different. Not all tech is good and not all tech will be used in a legal and responsible manner. It is no different than it was during the 2000’s and it will be no different in the 2020’s. Hopefully we will all learn and exercise a little bit more common sense to make us all just a bit safer on the Internet and with tech in general.

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