6 ways the 1990’s were more like the ’60s than they are like today.

time-internet-1994
Time magazine cover from 1994.

It may not seem like it, but the 1990s are now a really, really long time ago.   I was gobsmacked one day not long ago when I realized the year my son was born (1991) is exactly halfway between 2016 and 1966!   1991 only seems like yesterday, while 1966 seems like it might have been a thousand years ago.   Of course, time does seem to speed up the older you get (I was just a little kid in ’66), but the chunk of time between ’66 and ’91 seems light years longer than the same chunk of time between ’91 and today.  What the hell is going on?!

In some ways, the 1990’s don’t seem much different than today.  The fashions haven’t changed all that much, women in the workplace was a given, computers and video games were around (even if they were clunky and primitive) so that decade still seems fairly “modern.”   But not really! In actuality, things have changed so fast in the last two decades (technology especially) that the 1990s really more closely resemble the 1960s than they resemble the mid-late 2010’s.    Here are six ways they do.

1. There was no (well, hardly any) Internet.

dialup2

Not for most of the decade anyway.  The Internet actually existed as early as 1969, and was called Arpanet back then. It was used only by the Department of Defense and by university employees and scientists working for the government.    Yes, there was email in the 1970s too.  But no one else had access to the ‘net and probably wouldn’t have wanted it since it was so much more complicated to use in those days.  During the ’80s, computers became ubiquitous, but it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that Windows began to replace DOS, making computing a lot easier and more fun.  In 1991, the World Wide Web went public, but it didn’t really catch on until the mid-late ’90s.   I remember a lot of people dismissed the Internet as a “fad” back in those days.   And of course, at first, there wasn’t much on it so it wasn’t the time consuming addiction it is today.   Few people had Internet until the last years of the decade, and of course there was no social media, so people got their news and gossip the old fashioned way–by reading newspapers, watching the news, or making a phone call.    We were all still isolated from each other.  It would be unheard of to chat in real time with someone in, say, the Phillippines.

2. People still relied on land-lines, pay phones, and called long distance.

payphone

There was no social media, the first cell phones were clunky, inefficient, expensive affairs called “car phones,”  and the closest thing to texting was something called a pager–where you still had to find a land line or phone booth to contact whoever paged you.   People still worried about their long-distance bills.  Although Mama Bell had already given birth to her five “babies,”  Bell Telephone still had a monopoly on the phone industry.  When you set up phone service, you were given a Bell phone rather than buying a phone from a myriad of manufacturers because they didn’t exist yet.   Pay phones were still on every corner and in front of every gas station and grocery store, and if you did have Internet,   you had to sign off in order to make a phone call. You could actually have a conversation with someone without them suddenly having to interrupt you to “take a call.”

3. Kids still played outside.

Group of children running together

Yes, there were computer and video games and Game Boys and cable TV, which tended to keep kids inside more than in earlier decades,  but there was a lot less to do than there is today.   The games were pretty primitive and didn’t have great graphics and were a lot simpler–not as many “levels” you could achieve.  You also couldn’t play games over the Internet with other users or chat with kids in other states or countries.     Although parents were more anxious about letting their kids out to play unsupervised than they had been in earlier decades, kids did still play outside when they grew bored with the limited technological activities at home.

4. The economy was booming and it was easy to find a good job.

job_application

Whether you loved Bill Clinton or hated him, you gotta admit he got the economy going and in a big way too.   Jobs were everywhere, and they weren’t all low wage service jobs like they are today.  Companies still cared about their employees, encouraged employee growth, and offered good health insurance and other benefits, generous vacation time, and even time and a half pay for hourly workers who worked overtime.   There were lots of start up companies, and although many of them (the Dot Com boom) went bankrupt later, there was always a job to be found.  You also didn’t have to apply for a job online only to have your email or online application never even seen by anyone.  In those days, you could still walk into a place and ask for a written application, and sometimes even see a manager that same day.   It still wasn’t a rarity to lose or leave one job but be able to find a new job the next day, and sometimes a better one.

One other thing–you weren’t likely to be “profiled” and have background checks run on you the way you are today.

5. People still listened to rock music on the radio and bought “records.”

radio

The ’90’s is thought by many to be one of the best decades for rock music.   Grunge got its start in the early ’90s, but there were plenty of other new rock and pop genres being played too–and you could hear all of it on most radio stations that played music.   Deejays were still allowed to play what they wanted, rather than playing only what corporate executives told them to play, and there was a lot more variety in the kinds of music being played.   Today, if you listen to the radio at all, you’ll hear the same 10 songs played in rotation, and those 10 songs all sound pretty much the same.  Although there’s still rock music being made, it doesn’t get airplay on commercial radio.  You have to find a local indie station or go to Youtube or Sirius for that.   Also, people still bought their music in tangible form. Okay, they were CD’s rather than LPs, but it was still something you bought in a store and could hold in your hand and have the pleasure of peeling off the cellophane.

6. People still read magazines, newspapers, and books.

newsstand

Magazine, paper, and book sales have plummeted, due to Internet “magazines” and websites and digital readers like Kindle. Sure, there are book purists and books may never really go away because there’s nothing like the smell and feel of a book, but magazines? I could see them going the way of 8 Track Tapes in the not too distant future. What will we do in waiting rooms when that happens? Play on our phones, I guess.

Can you think of any other ways the ’90’s resembled the 1960’s more than today?

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Thoughts that you can’t believe someone else thought about too.

time (1)

Sometimes I have weird thoughts. Sometimes I like to type them into Google to see if anyone else was thinking the same thing. Here’s something I think about a lot. Someone on Reddit had the exact same thought and posted it. It’s always incredibly cool when that happens.

Here is the thing I think about a lot but at least one other person does too.

The mid-90s are as far away as the mid-70s were in the mid-90s. But mid-70s seems like another world to me, mid-90s seem like yesterday.

It’s kind of hard to wrap my brain around that. Even more bizarre is this:

1990 is as far away from 2015 as 1990 was from 1965!
😮

Or even:
1985 is as far away from 2015 as 1955 was from 1985! (but the 1980s are starting to seem kind of ancient to me actually).

The 90s just don’t seem that far away to me, but they are! I wonder if it’s just because I’m growing older and time is speeding up (at a rather frightening rate, too) or if people of all ages feel this way too. And if so, why? Did people who were the age I am now in 1990 think 1965 or the 1970s weren’t that far away? Do I just perceive a much larger gap of time from the 70s to the 90s or from 1965 to 1990 because I was much younger then? I think the culture has changed just as much in the past 25 years as it did in the 25 years before that. But the ’70s seem ancient (and sort of did in the 90s too if I remember correctly) and the ’90s don’t.
Why?

How did narcissism get so “popular”? (part two of two)

narcissist_nation

Here is the second installment, as I promised–I apologize for the delay. In part one, I covered the way narcissism has increasingly infiltrated our society and become a near-virtue to be emulated, starting in the late 1940s and 1950s in a postwar America now regarded to be a world superpower. The babies born in this mood of can-do optimism, the Baby Boomers, were indulged by their parents, who believed anything was possible and showered their children with all the new toys, space-age technology, and new permissive child-rearing techniques that were suddenly popular.

In Part One of this article, I discussed how the indulged Boomer generation influenced western society at every stage of life, and (as a generation) grew into grandiose, entitled adults who demanded (and got) special treatment every step of the way. I covered the decades from the 1950s through the 1980s, and described how narcissism became increasingly regarded as a desireable quality. By the 1980s, narcissism came out of the closet, with the election of a president (Reagan) who encouraged greed, materialism, and entitlements for the wealthy with his “trickle down economics.” At the same time, empathy, neighborliness, and general goodwill toward others seemed to become almost quaint, a naive relic of the past. The juggernaut was the new “greed is good” philosophy, made popular by a 1987 hit movie, “Wall Street,” (which was of course the place to be). Narcissism was no longer something to be hidden; now it was something to aspire to.

In this next installment, I’ll be focusing less on the Boomers and more on the continued growth of narcissism in society, as well as the backlash against it–the narcissistic abuse and ACON community–which began as an Internet phenomenon during the mid 1990s due to one self-professed narcissist named Sam Vaknin. But actually, the seeds of the backlash had been planted as far back as 1983, with M. Scott Peck’s bestselling book, “People of the Lie.”

1990s.

cast_friends

The greed worshipping culture begun in the 1980s continued during the 1990s, as Boomers rose to power and we elected our first Boomer president, Bill Clinton, in 1992. Under Clinton, the economy boomed, and a new breed of Yuppies, the Dot Com entrepreneurs (who were mostly Generation X), rode on the coattails of the newly born Internet, and they made money hand over fist until they went bust several years later. But people still went shopping and the culture at large was becoming increasingly exhibitionistic, obnoxious, and in-your-face (reality shows were born during this time), while corporations grew bigger and more unwieldy (unlimited growth, like a cancer, was encouraged, and smaller companies merged into megacorporations the size of small governments). Meanwhile, government institutions built in the more sedate and community-oriented 1950s and 1960s began to splinter and crumble. The government, especially the part of the government that tried to help its less fortunate citizens and attempted to even the playing field through fair taxation, became The Enemy.

But a backlash was beginning to silently bubble under all the glitz and bling of the ’90s. Back in 1983, a psychiatrist turned born-again Christian named M. Scott Peck published his groundbreaking book, “People of the Lie.” Here, for the first time, was a self help psychology book that focused on “evil”–specifically, people who were evil. The traits described in the book are exactly those of malignant narcissism. The book resonated with many, particularly with Gen-Xers and later born Boomers (Generation Jones), who had been raised by narcissistic parents. In some cases, especially for younger Boomers and early Gen-Xers, these kids had been betrayed by initially doting Silent generation parents who suddenly, during the 1960s or 1970s, seemed to suddenly care only about their own self-development at the expense of their confused and hurt adolescent and preteen children who they no longer seemed to even like much (this is exactly what my experience had been growing up in the 60s and 70s: my parents changed and no longer seemed to care).

But in the early 1980s, Peck’s “evil people” were not automatically equated with narcissists or people with other Cluster B disorders. Until the mid-90s, narcissism–or NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)–was simply a psychiatric label given to certain patients with a certain set of traits, who may or may not have been evil. NPD wasn’t demonized yet.

Then along came Sam Vaknin in 1995. Vaknin, a former white collar criminal and self-confessed narcissist, had written a tome about narcissism called “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.” Written initially to obtain supply and a guru-like status for himself, Vaknin’s book actually helped many of the narcissistic abuse victims who read it and recognized their abusers in its 600+ pages. Vaknin’s idea of NPD didn’t fit that described in the DSM: he mixed in with NPD several traits of psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and Borderline personality disorder (BPD), to describe a particularly dangerous type of malignant narcissist that made the toxic people described in M. Scott Peck’s book seem almost tame in comparison.

The book was successful, and soon Vaknin started his own website, and discussion groups, and abuse victims all over the world jumped on the bandwagon. Vaknin, exactly the sort of person they sought to avoid, had become their savior and guiding light out of darkness.

Until the 2000s, Vaknin’s was pretty much the only voice on the Internet about narcissistic abuse. But in the very late 90s, a few books were beginning to be published about this “new” type of abuse that didn’t necessary include physical violence (but could). Parents, particularly mothers, were the focus, and a subset of the narcissistic abuse community–one that focused on narcissistic mothers and the damage they had done to their now-adult children–formed the template for the explosive ACON (Adult Children of Narcissists) movement.

2000s.

bling

For a brief time, after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it looked like Americans just might start to care about each other again. There was an outpouring of support for the victims of the 9/11 disasters, and solidarity shown among all Americans. For the first time, regional differences and even racial differences didn’t seem to matter, and Americans were united by their flying of the flag. No one seemed all that concerned by the curtailment of certain freedoms and and increase in xenophobia–after all, it was for the protection of the country, right?

But as a result, the economy was suffering, so George W. Bush Jr. (“Dubya”) gave us all permission to “go shopping.” And so we did. It was back to the bread and circuses and the shallow, materialistic culture of the 1980s through pre-2001.

Reality shows rose in popularity and the badder the behavior, the more popular they got. New celebrities were famous only for “being famous,” having a famous parent, or just for acting badly. People aspired to be just like Snooki and The Situation from The Jersey Shore, or Tiffany “New York” Pollard from Flavor of Love. All of these characters were narcissists, or at least acted that way for the benefit of the camera. And people loved them for it.

During the 2000s, Millennials, the rising young adult generation, born in the 1980s and 1990s, started being being accused of being narcissistic, but if they are, you can blame their parents for having taught them these values. In addition, a lot of gaslighting is going on by older generations, who blame the Millennials for their inability to find jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits, forcing them to live at home and be dependent for longer than earlier generations–and accuse them of being “lazy,” “spoiled,” and “entitled.” But what about their mostly Boomer and Gen-X parents, who modeled this sort of behavior?

Politicians became more blatantly narcissistic and their lack of empathy sank to new lows. One politician said if you weren’t rich, you should blame yourself. Blaming the victim became increasingly popular, and was even seen by some conservative politicians as a “Christian” way to behave–for if you were favored by God, He would bless you with wealth and material comforts. Religion itself became a way for narcissists to rise to positions of great power, and use their “favored status” in God’s eyes as a way to abuse their flock of followers.

Meanwhile, the narcissistic abuse commmunity continued to grow, and blogs written by abuse survivors were beginning to pop up all over the Internet. The abuse community developed their own lingo, some of it borrowed from earlier movements such as 12-step programs (codependent, enabling, people-pleaser are examples), some from pioneers such as Sam Vaknin (narcissistic supply, confabulation), and some from mental health experts going all the way back to Freud. Some terms were taken from popular movies, such as “flying monkeys” (The Wizard of Oz), and “gaslighting” (Gaslight).

2010s.

tea-party

Being only 5 years into the 2010s, it’s hard to see any patterns yet, but it does seem that the problem of narcissism is finally being noticed by the general public. One of the Republican presidential candidates, Donald Trump, is well known for his “NPD” and called out for his grandiose antics constantly, even by people outside the narcissistic abuse community. Narcissism is a fashionable topic now–the fascination by it may only be a fad, but it’s making people pay attention. Lately I’ve noticed a number of Christians who are abandoning the fiscally conservative values held by groups such as the Tea Party, who are about as collectively entitled as you can get (they had better get their social security, but to hell with that child who needs special medical treatment but can’t get it because his parents are too poor). It’s probably too soon to tell whether the “social gospel” is making a return, but there does seem to be a greater call for an increase in empathy and caring for each other and building communities instead of just building up the Almighty Self.

It will be interesting to see what the rest of this decade holds.

“Simpler times.”

record_player

I remember growing up in the late 1960s and 1970s, I always heard grown-ups talk about the 1950s, which I don’t remember because I was born at the tail-end of that decade. People of my parents’ generation talked about how much simpler things had been in the decade of poodle skirts, The Honeymooners, Chuck Berry, and suburban conformity.

I remember my record player that I got when I was about 6. It was one of those boxy plastic affairs inside an aqua faux-leather box and had a pearlized plastic and chrome handle. It had a dial that said 16-33-45-78. Even back then, 16 rpm and 78 rpm records were pretty much obsolete, but one of my favorite things to do was obsessively play my children’s records on the various settings. My favorite was 78 rpm because it made everything sound like the Chipmunks. It made me laugh. The 16 rpm setting was scary because it made voices sound demonic–like the death metal which was still far off into the future. I used to wonder if there was even a such thing as a 16 rpm record? If so, I never saw one. I do remember a babysitter gave me a molded plastic album filled with her old records from her childhood, which included 78s. They were very small and came in colors other than black. I should have kept them; they would probably be worth something today.

My first album was The Monkees. I was obsessed with the TV show and in love with Mickey Dolenz. I used to play “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville” over and over, and kept scraping the needle back over the record to hear those songs again. All the other little girls I knew were in love with Davey Jones, but he just never did it for me. I look at old pictures of Mickey today and wonder what my 8 year old self saw in him. He really wasn’t that cute. One time a babysitter and her boyfriend played a joke on me. She had her boyfriend call and pretend he was Mickey. She handed me the phone and with a twinkle in her eye, said “it’s for you.” I half-believed it was true. I wanted to believe it was true. But when she told me it was a joke, I just said, “oh, okay, I knew it was a joke anyway.” I’m not sure if I did or not. I was so gullible back then. I went back to my room to play my Monkees album again.

the_monkees

I remember the orange and white plastic AM transistor radio I got for Christmas that same year. I was so proud of being able to keep up with all the hit songs. It made me feel so grown up, almost like a teenager. It seemed in those days new songs stayed on the radio for a shorter period of time than they do now–the maximum was about 3 months. “American Pie” was one of the few that remained in rotation for 4 or more months. I lost my radio about a year later when I failed to rake the leaves. When my father found out, he took me out to the garage, told me to bring the radio with me, and as I stood there, he smashed it to bits with a shovel. I was inconsolable. I would have rather been beaten.

I was in my teens during the 1970s and graduated to a real stereo. It was a one-piece console but still a stereo and I could get FM radio, which was considered much cooler than AM. Stereos were a big deal in the 1970s. Outside of fancy stereophonic equipment and color television, we didn’t have a whole lot in the way of entertainment technology. That wouldn’t happen until the 1980s with its VCR and personal computer revolution.

The advances made since the 1980s have been staggering. In the 1990s the Internet was introduced to the public and at first people dismissed it as a fad that would soon pass. Ha! Little did I know that in two decades, it would completely change my life. The Internet was like manna from heaven for socially awkward introverts like myself.

There were also the first cell phones (which almost no one had due to the expense and they didn’t work too well). The turn of the century ushered in the communications revolution, with cellphones beginning to supplement or even replace the old landline phone. The Internet is barely recognizable from what it was in the 1990s. When I look at videos now of the early Internet, it looks so primitive, like something from 100 years ago. It’s hard to believe it was only 20 years ago it looked like that. Things are changing with dizzying speed and time itself seems compressed.

netscape

When I look back on the 1960s and 1970s now, they seem so innocent. Kids didn’t have computers and TV was still pretty limited because so few people had cable TV yet. But what we did get was free. Watching TV became a something families did together after dinner, instead of each family member going off to watch their own show or play a game on their own TV or computer. Kids played outside, because, well, there was nothing else to do. In a technological sense, the 1970s weren’t a whole lot different than the 1950s, even though attitudes had changed pretty drastically.

The 1970s to me seem like another lifetime, not merely 40 or so years ago. Now I hear people talk about “those innocent 1970s” and I laugh because when we were in them, no one thought they were that innocent at all.

With all that said, I’ll leave you with this: