This word has become so used over the latter half of the decade, I even used it in the preceding section of this article. It's totally gone viral! Plus the avian and swine flus are viruses, so... there's probably something in there.
The fact that our culture is rapidly becoming a phantasmagoria of disparate niches all linked together into a big undulating quilt makes virality the new way to accomplish pretty much anything- from marketing a product to finding an audience.
Our current trend of embracing virality as an ad strategy is, I think, an unspoken admission that the halcyon days of monolithic media conglomerates dictating public opinion is ending. Now we have a bunch of smaller, edgier companies all secretly owned by monolithic media conglomerates.
We heard it every hour for a year since the financial collapse of 2008. It describes a phenomenon that apparently has a profound effect on all of our lives, but don't bother asking an expert to explain it.
"So they're bad loans that didn't get paid back? I get that, but haven't some people always failed to pay off loans? It never ruined the economy before."
"Yes, but these subprime mortgages were bundled into credit default swaps that were sold as high yield derivatives on the unsecured securities exchange, often leveraged up to three thousand percent of the XG4 rating on the Greenburg Cromulance Scale. It was a ticking time bomb, really."
We're reminded that even in the information age, our lives are utterly ruled by forces we can't begin to comprehend.
It's everything. It's an excuse ("We really can't get away with a violent video game like that Post-9/11Post-9/11 climate?), and it almost definitely showed up in a speech if you graduated either high school or college between 2001 and 2010 ("RHS Seniors fucking rule! Especially Post-9/11.) I've even used it as a pick-up line ("In this Post-9/11 environment, if you don't fellate me, the terrorists win. Think of my boner as the first tower, and your mou- Oh, you're already doing it, OK, awesome.").
Everything this decade has been seen through the lens of "life after 9/11," and some douchey Internet writers are even using it in cheap punchlines for stupid articles.
On December 31, 1999, telling someone you had a "smart phone" was like saying your TV had a good sense of humor when Seinfeld was on. Today, the smart phone isn't just a cute nickname. What was considered smart at the beginning of this decade--having an encyclopedia of knowledge on instantaneous recall--has been outsourced to technology.
The transition between the two conflicting definitions: "knowing information" and "being able to process the information that technology knows for you" gave us books and newspaper headlines fretting about the stupidity of a generation raised on the Web.
The conflict had some more effects as well. Malcolm Gladwell (who would have been my pick if we'd wasted a category on trivial bullshit like thinker of the decade) outlined how the two conflicting definitions of "intelligence" played an integral role in the two biggest American disasters of the decade. After it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, our go-to excuse seemed to be that had access to loads of information we just didn't know how to interpret. While that might have sounded like a reasonable excuse in 1999, today I can say the same thing about the phone in my pocket.
It used to be a color. Now it means that you're very concerned about the environment, but only to the extent that you'll spend a dollar more on laundry detergent if it has a tree on the bottle.
Before the 2000s, you could be green with illness, green with envy or green with Irish pride, but it is only after the 2000s that you can be green with pretension.