It's no surprise that COVID-19 was the topic that dominated this year's top social media trends, worldwide. As countries went into lockdown, every aspect of life, from work to weddings shifted online this year. But, that's not all. Here's a chronological look at 12 social media trends that sum up the year 2020.
The year started with the World Health Organisation (WHO)'s announcement on January 9, about mysterious Coronavirus-related pneumonia emerging in Wuhan, China. At that point, 59 cases had been reported in Wuhan. On Jan 23, Wuhan went under lockdown.
While COVID-19 had still not gone viral, in January, another hot topic emerged on social media. In the UK, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, and his wife Meghan, announced that they would "no longer be working members of Britain's royal family", and would not use their "Royal Highness" styles any longer. The outcome was described as a "hard Megxit". The word became so popular on social media that it was included in the Collins English Dictionary's online edition as one of the top ten words of 2020.
The Australian bushfire season that started in 2019 went on till the first few months of 2020, with unusually intense bushfires in many parts of Australia. The major fires peaked during December 2019 and January 2020. As of March 9, 2020, the fires burnt an estimated 18.6 million hectares, destroyed over 5,900 buildings. Nearly 3 billion terrestrial vertebrates were affected and some endangered species were believed to be driven to extinction. By this period the bushfires had also killed at least 34 people. Later in the month, New South Wales declared a state of emergency and Victoria a state of disaster. People from around the world came together on social media to donate for the animal and human lives affected by the tragedy. It also led to social media discussion on #ClimateChange and #GlobalWarming
4. Movie #Parasite sweeps Oscars
In February, the South Korean film Parasite received a lot of social media love after it was named best picture at the Oscars, and won in three other Oscars categories. The movie becoming the first non-English language film to take the top prize. This made it a global social media trend.
5. #COVID19, #Lockdown, #StayHome and #Frontlineworkers
By March, the novel coronavirus had spread to many parts of the world. On March 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic. It resulted in the largest number of lockdowns worldwide. China was the first country to enforce the quarantine and lockdown in late January.
By March 26, 1.7 billion people worldwide were under some form of lockdown, which increased to 3.9 billion people by the first week of April. More than half of the world's population in more than 90 countries or territories had been asked or ordered to stay at home by their governments. Air travel was halted and travel and tourism took a backseat. #StayHome became one of the top hashtags of the year.
Quarantined musicians played and sang from balconies in locked-down Italy, and other parts of the world.
Social media users also shared posts praising frontline workers and medical staff for their efforts in fighting the pandemic.
6. #Workfromhome and Zoom meetings
As lockdowns and movement restrictions were imposed, work shifted home. Pets, spouses, and children became co-workers. Hashtag #WFH or 'work from home' became a common trend across social media.
Lockdowns also brought a shift in education. Students in schools and universities had to start learning online. Many foreign students across the world had to travel back to their countries and start learning online. Technology giants focused on making software to enable educators. And, many teachers made use of social media platforms such as YouTube to share classes.
8. #GeorgeFloyd and #ICantBreathe
On May 25, news about the murder of a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd as a result of racism and police brutality in the United States, took social media by storm. Minneapolis police officers had arrested George Floyd after a convenience store employee called 911 and told the police that Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life. The last words spoken by Floyd as he struggled, were "I can't breathe". The hashtag #Icantbreathe became one of the top hashtags on social media this year, with people from around the world voicing solidarity and sharing tributes. Across the world, artists painted murals in tribute to Floyd.
It also brought back the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter. Though COVID-19 was full force by now, Floyd's death sparked protests across the US. An estimated 15 million to 26 million took to the streets in protest with one message. Black lives matter. It became one of the largest movements in the country's history.
9. #ZoomWeddings and #Zoomgraduations
The months of April and May also saw a new trend. Events moved online. Many couples across the world decided that they would not let the pandemic dampen their wedding celebrations. Zoom proms and graduation ceremonies also became common.
While human beings remained locked up indoors, animals took to the streets to enjoy and nature began healing. Social media users shared pictures of animals roaming on streets without fear and dolphins returning to water-bodies without human disturbance.
11. #ChadwickBoseman's death
The post announcing the death of beloved “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman from his official Twitter account on August 28, was both the most retweeted and the most liked tweet of the year 2020.
With COVID-19 affecting the entire world, any new development in finding #covidvaccines became important.
By mid-December 2020, 57 vaccine candidates across the globe, were in clinical research, including 40 in Phase I–II trials, and 17 in Phase II–III trials. National regulatory authorities worldwide approved five vaccines for public use: Ttozinameran from Pfizer–BioNTech, BBIBP-CorV from Sinopharm, CoronaVac from Sinovac, mRNA-1273 from Moderna, and Gam-COVID-Vac (Sputnik V) from the Gamaleya Research Institute. By December, more than 10 billion vaccine doses had been preordered by countries.