It was only eight years ago when President Obama took office, but it seems like a lifetime. Smartphones were a luxury. Donald Trump was a reality TV star. Taylor Swift sang country music. Now Obama’s hair is graying, Beyoncé is an activist and Uber is a verb. Here are eight cultural touchstones that have informed our politics and showed how we, and the world, have changed.
Back then Twitter was still an emerging social media service, used mostly by young journalists and early adopters. The platform was but a twinkle in the eye of Donald Trump, who didn’t join until March 2009. Now its users send upwards of 500 million tweets a day — sometimes in a flurry at 3 in the morning.
When Obama took office, your grandparents weren’t on Facebook. Myspace was still a thing. There wasn’t even a Facebook Like button (that came three weeks later). Now Facebook is everywhere, we shower our friends with Likes and almost half of American adults get news — or, sometimes, “fake news” — from the social network.
NBC began recasting Donald Trump’s NBC reality show with B- and C-list celebs to jump-start falling ratings. Season one champ: TV host (and former CNN anchor) Piers Morgan, who won by organizing a charity Backstreet Boys concert. The series was rebooted this month with host Arnold Schwarzenegger, who instead of firing contestants “terminates” them.
The far-right news site hired its first staffer in 2008 and gradually built a readership, despite the death of founder Andrew Breitbart in 2012. But it didn’t really gain traction until the 2016 presidential election. Now its former top executive, Stephen Bannon, will be an adviser in the Trump White House.
Back then, we were driving our Saturn to the video store to rent a movie we’d watch on the TV we bought at Circuit City. Yes, Netflix was around, but streaming was in its infancy. Today, as the mobile web keeps shaking up the biz world, we are Ubering to our Airbnb, Snapchatting and Instagramming along the way.
Pantone chose a warm, yellow hue in late 2008, saying, “in a time of economic uncertainty and political change … no other color expresses hope and reassurance more.” Funny, that sounds a lot like Pantone’s reasoning behind their new yellow-green shade, which “provides us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment.” If only.
America has come a long way. In 2008, gays could marry in only two states and most Americans opposed same-sex marriage. But public opinion shifted quickly. Mitch and Cam wed on “Modern Family,” the Supreme Court cleared the way for gays and lesbians to marry nationwide and by the 2016 election, it was barely an issue.
When Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech in November 2008 in Chicago, his supporters waved flags. How quaint. Thanks to booming sales of smartphones, which more than quadrupled while he was in office, the scene looked quite different at his farewell speech in the same city eight years later. Because pics or it didn’t happen.
CNN’s AJ Willingham contributed to this report.