Welcome to The Highlight’s Decade Issue

Was there a decade that moved faster than the 2010s? Was there a period of time that brought so much change, and upheaval, and heartache, and renewal of the spirit? Was there a decade so exhausting? Here, at the very end of it all, it hardly seems possible.

If the 2010s had a common theme, it’s safe to say it was technology, which propelled us forward with occasionally uncomfortable force, giving us the means to share selfies and record police violence, to shout “Me Too” and be duped by disinformation, seemingly all at once.

In the midst of all the noise, the moments that we ought to remember become clear: The decade will be defined by the events that fundamentally changed us. What didn’t Uber transform about commutes — and the way we view work? What did we do with our free time, even, before a cute stray dog became the first Instagram influencer? How did marijuana’s reputation go from criminal to curative to lucrative in the course of just a few years?

In this issue, we look back at the events that mattered, as well as the moments that should have mattered but somehow failed to move the needle. We also chronicle the decade-long reversal of public opinion on gay marriage and remember the decade’s most defining memes.

We can’t say the 2020s won’t bring their own tectonic changes. But the 2010s will be hard to beat.


A collage of the White House, a Facebook protest, Amazon boxes, and other images from the 2010s. Graphics: Zac Freeland/Vox, Photos: Getty Images

The decade, explained

From Instagram to the rise of strongmen, these were the era’s 23 defining moments.

by Vox Staff


Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shake hands during a meeting in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

From breaches to impeachment, the decade’s biggest flops

Four moments from the 2010s that just didn’t matter.

by Lavanya Ramanathan and Karen Turner


Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

How gay marriage won America

The decade saw a seismic shift in how society views LGBTQ people.

by Trish Bendix


Collage of memes including doge and Rebecca Black Zac Freeland/Vox

11 memes that captured the decade

The internet’s weird viral ephemera made us laugh, stoked fears and hate, and gave us a common language. Mostly, it defined who we are now.

by Aja Romano