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The Noughties: The naffest decade of all?

Questionable fashion choices, obsessions with reality TV and cumbersome tech. Liz Connor raises a glass to the naffest decade of all

Davina McCall with Craig Phillips on Big Brother
Davina McCall with Craig Phillips on Big Brother
The famous Nokia mobile phones
Taking a photo with a digital camera

Ah, the Noughties. What is it about this decade that inspires such warmth and recoil in equal measure? On the one hand, we were (mostly) living an innocent pre-smartphone life, free from the constant need to update our Instagram accounts with vacuous selfies, but on the other, we were stomping around in Ugg boots and mimicking Paris Hilton's catchphrases with over-plucked eyebrows.

To quote Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

It was only a decade ago, but you only have to cast your mind back to the mid-Noughties to realise that life has changed a lot since the good old days of waiting for your dial-up internet to connect. If you're struggling to recall life before Netflix, avocado on toast and broadband, we've picked out a few ways that the world has moved on swiftly since then...

1. You were much more likely to get lost and cry

Before we relied on Google Maps and GPS technology to get us from A-B, people were forced to lug around physical A-Z maps of cities in their handbags, printed directions from their home printers before setting off, or simply attempted to 'wing it' by memorising the route on their computer screen before leaving the house (always a risky decision that usually ended in tears).

No matter how much of an urban Ray Mears you thought you were, travelling to a new destination always came with the deep fear of getting horrendously lost en route, and casual drinks with friends could easily snowball into a traumatic search-and-rescue mission.

2. Clicking the browser button on your mobile phone genuinely sent you into a pit of despair

Today, we don't think twice about accessing the internet on our devices - in fact, a study by Ofcom found that a third of all online access is now via smartphones. But before all-you-can-eat data contracts came into play, getting onto the web on your Nokia 3310 was pretty much a death sentence for your bank balance.

The internet was seriously expensive (honestly, who had the money to casually browse their Hotmail account?), so accidentally clicking on the Internet Explorer icon would quickly have you breaking out in a cold sweat, hammering the escape key and praying to the heavens that your precious PAYG balance wasn't being zapped to smithereens.

3. People shared their darkest secrets over MSN Messenger instead of WhatsApp

Was there anything more thrilling than penning a decent MSN Messenger status that would attract your crush's attention? My poison of choice was usually angsty lyrics by Hot Hot Heat, The Others or another mid-Noughties indie band that we've all now forgotten about, but there was one rule we all stuck to: the more exclamation marks, the better.

Sure WhatsApp is a time-suck, but MSN Messenger was a level above; a black hole from a distant galaxy that swallowed up entire evenings with endless reams of meaningless, useless chat.

4. We obsessed over Big Brother evictions instead of Love Island recouplings

Before there was Kendall, Adam and Rosie, there was Nasty Nick, Craig and Sada. Big Brother was the original reality TV phenomenon that prayed on our inner curtain-twitching need to observe life under a lens, and then critique it over the water cooler at work.

Love it or hate it, modern celebrity culture was pretty much created by Big Brother - the idea that a 'nobody' could become a 'somebody' overnight, simply by having a thirst for being famous, soon seemed normal. Say what you want about Love Island addictions, nothing comes close to the sobering realisation that you're awake at 3am, watching a 'live feed' of the housemates snoring in bed. Riveting stuff.

5. We lived for hitting the high street on a Saturday afternoon

With the likes of ASOS and Amazon available at a click of a button, most of us can now go for months without walking into a physical shop, but back in the day, everyone knew that a decent Saturday afternoon was spent aimlessly exploring the great British high street.

There was something therapeutic about poring over embellished flares and velour tracksuits in Etam or Morgan before treating yourself to a new CD from HMV and a bag of pick 'n' mix in Woolworths. Bliss.

6. We actually lugged around a flip phone, an iPod and a separate digital camera

Club-goers of the Noughties know that a night out meant you needed a seriously strategic packing session beforehand. You needed your flip phone to call a taxi, your iPod for tunes on the way home, but you were also in the market for a new profile picture for your Myspace account (which required a separate point-and-shoot camera).

Getting all your technology into your miniature cute clutch purse, inspired by Hilary Duff, was hard work, but you weren't going to the let the laws of physics stand in your way. Thank goodness smartphones changed the game.

7. You could smoke pretty much everywhere

While many of today's under-25s wellness brigade prefer to host teetotal brunches with plant-based foods, virgin cocktails and Instagram photo-shoots, the rest of us spent our student years drinking pints and eating crisps in smelly boozers characterised by a thick layer of smoke in the air.

Bars, restaurants and pubs - everyone smoked everywhere and anywhere, and wearing any item of cherished clothing on a night out was done with the risk of surrendering it to irreparable cigarette burns.

Thankfully, a smoking ban came into effect in 2007, making it illegal to light up in all enclosed work and public places across the UK and our foggy - and smelly - nights out became a thing of the past.

Noughties, we loved you for your indie floor-fillers, polyphonic ringtones, Von Dutch caps and simpler way of life - but we're also pretty glad that you're over.

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