The New Normal “Normal” may feel like a permanent state, but it’s anything but. What follows are some of the things that became our notion of the “new normal” throughout 2010. They may not be next year’s normal.
A Jobless Recovery? “What is a danger is that we stay stuck in a New Normal where unemployment rates stay high, people who have jobs see their incomes go up, businesses make big profits. But they’ve learned to do more with less, and so they don’t hire.”
—Barack Obama, Nov. 7, 2010
Deep Disappointment? The subject was the economy. The setting was Obama’s Sept. 20 town-hall meeting in Washington D.C. The comment, by Velma Hart of Upper Marlboro, Md., started amicably and ended with a plea. “Quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your Administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now. And quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer honestly, Is this my new reality?”
Lower Expectations “No, the New Normal is simply a construction designed to save Obama and the Democrats from any association with this economic collapse. … So the New Normal means if you’re not happy, tough toenails. If you’re not happy, lower your expectations, ’cause this is it, baby. The New Normal is designed to get you to give up. The New Normal is a creation to get you to go ahead and accept mediocrity in your country.”
—Rush Limbaugh, Aug. 16, 2010
Public is Normal New Normal, a two-year-old filly, earned $152,178 in 2010, winning two races in four starts. She is the offspring of a 12-year-old mare named New Economy.
Michael Burns Photo/Woodbineenter
Mark Zuckerberg In January, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg declared privacy a custom option—not a standard feature—as his site moved to reveal more information about its users. “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people,” he said in an interview with blogger Michael Arrington. Privacy in 2010 was compromised so routinely that legislators and activists around the world spent considerable time trying to reassert it: Germany is banning Facebook as a way for employers to vet potential employees, and the Federal Trade Commission is proposing a “do not track” button to regulate online privacy. Zuckerberg may be presumptuous, but it’s hard to argue with people’s embrace of Facebook, perhaps the most efficient method of personal public display ever invented. It passed the 500-million-user mark in July.
Moving back home With jobs scarce even for the most experienced, more and more recent graduates are back at home with Mom and Dad. According to a 2010 report by the Pew Research Center, the downturn has left 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds either unemployed or out of the workforce, a high not seen in more than 30 years. That’s may be one reason the number of ¬25- to 34-year-olds living with their parents has nearly doubled since 1980. Twentysomething, a consulting firm, finds 85 percent of students planned to return home this year after graduation.
Streaming video Streaming video, both TV and movies, hogged the screen in 2010. Netflix moved away from rent-by-mail and toward “Watch Instantly.” This year streaming video is poised to surpass peer-to-peer sharing (aka pirated files) to become the largest volume of video traffic on the Net, says Cisco Systems.
QR codes QR codes became normal in 2010. Scan this one and find out more.
Free shipping Possibly prodded by the war ¬between Amazon.com and ¬Diapers.com, ¬shipping fees are going the way of rotary phones. On Nov. 11, Wal-Mart Stores entered the fray, ¬offering free shipping on 60,000 items through the holidays. Best Buy followed suit on Nov. 17. “We’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the number of merchants offering free shipping this year,” says Luke Knowles, founder of Colorado-based FreeShipping.org, which lists sites offering free shipping. “Walmart.com started a small free-shipping war by offering free shipping on electronics and other items. Best Buy, Target, and others responded.” Some of those offers are set to expire in the new year, though Knowles says the number of merchants listed on his site doubled in 2010.
e-readers Any doubts that the mass market would embrace e-readers vanished in July when Amazon said its digital-book downloads had outpaced hardcover sales for the first time. In May, June, and July, for every 100 hardcovers Amazon sold, it sold 143 e-books. The e-tailer also sold more than three times as many digital books in the first half of 2010 as it had in the first half of 2009. Another sign of the e-book’s rise: A study by the Association of American Publishers in October showed that digital-book sales from the first 10 months of 2010 totaled $345 million—up 171 percent from the year before. (Hardcover sales were down 7.7 percent in that time.) Kindle, Nook, and iPad may be battling each other, but together they’re pulping the hardback.
Orange alert 52: Number of months the Homeland Security Dept. has maintained the aviation threat level at orange, or “high risk of terrorist attacks.”