In Depth

The top social media posts of 2021

Users gave weddings, K-pop and Twitter wit the thumbs up

It was a big year for social media. Facebook took on a new name, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down for the second time, and TikTok continued to set trends other platforms could only dream of keeping up with.

But which posts got users tapping the heart and thumbs-up icons most in 2021? Here are some of the most viral social media moments from the past 12 months.

Lots of love on Instagram

The three most-liked Instagram posts of the year shared a common theme: celebrity love.

Six months after announcing their engagement, US singer Ariana Grande and estate agent Dalton Gomez tied the knot on 15 May. The wedding was a low-key and “informal” affair, a source told TMZ, with “less than 20 guests” and “no real ‘ceremony’”. But the social media content “could move an angel to tears”, said Vulture

Grande shared “a set of lavish photographs” from the intimate nuptials with her 280 million Instagram followers days later, said Cosmopolitan magazine. And three posts on 26 May quickly became some of the platform’s most liked of the year, with a combined total of 63.2 million taps of approval from followers globally. 

In October, “fans rushed to the comments to share their support” when Georgina Rodriguez and her footballing partner Cristiano Ronaldo announced that they were expecting twins, said Hello! magazine. The Manchester United forward shared a picture of the pair posing with a black and white sonogram.

Baby news was on the cards for Kylie Jenner, too. The reality star shared news with her followers in September that she and Travis Scott are expecting their second child together. Their daughter Storm was born in February 2018.

The 90-second video posted on her Instagram shows clips of the influencer breaking the news to Scott and their daughter, as well as her mother Kris Jenner. She is also seen celebrating her 24th birthday.

Facebook: ‘baffling’ and bizarre

In an effort to be more transparent, Facebook this year announced that it would begin publishing “widely viewed content reports” every quarter, to make clear which content posted to public pages is being seen by the most US-based users. And the posts have included “a baffling array”, said The Independent. Here’s a flavour of what users liked so far this year.

One of the most-liked posts was a meme from lifestyle and recipe-sharing community Thinkarete. “Who can honestly say they never had a DUI?” it asked, referring to the US term for “drinking under the influence”. The page has a sizeable following of more than 2 million, but the comments section went wild. 

More than 18 million comments were made and the post was viewed by more than 94.3 million people. On his Substack account Platformer, tech writer Casey Newton pointed out the post had previously been shared on a meme page in 2019.

The social media team behind Texan daytime television stars Kimberly Crawford and Esteban Solis’s Facebook presence probably weren’t expecting quite the reaction they got when they asked the roughly 25,000 page fans to share the food item they would forever refuse to eat. The post earned 2.7 million comments and 206,000 reactions, putting it in one of the top spots for the year. 

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Millions of people commented when 101.9 Kiss FM Memphis asked what phrase their phone would come up with when relying on predictive text to spell their names.

Politics and K-pop on Twitter

You can rely on Twitter to deliver a mixed bag of messages, and its top tweets this year were no exception. 

Twitter feeds were a little less noisy following Donald Trump’s ban from the platform, but the new president was quick to step in and fill the void. Joe Biden earned the most popular tweet of the year accolade just by posting “It’s a new day in America” on his inauguration day. 

With 4 million likes and just under 500,000 retweets, followers across the Twittersphere were keen to spread the message after the president was sworn into office. Lady Gaga and J.Lo provided the ceremonial soundtrack, while poet Amanda Gorman summed up the hopes of a generation of Americans with her poem The Hill We Climb. 

South Korean boy band BTS have skyrocketed to fame since forming in 2013. And all it took for group member Jungkook to go viral on Twitter was a selfie and one emoji posted from their main account, which has almost 42 million followers.

While some social media managers spend weeks crafting their strategies and content, it seems all it takes for this group to succeed in the Twittersphere is selfies and brief captions – along with the odd cameo appearance from megastars like Lizzo and Anderson .Paak. 

Can you remember where you were on 4 October, the night of the infamous Facebook blackout? It might well have been Twitter, which has previously seen surges of activity when other platforms go down – often with users wanting to check it’s not just their accounts that are affected.

Twitter didn’t seem to mind, and was happy to see some familiar faces during the outage. While their other brand pages were down, Reddit and McDonald’s tweeted in response – while celebrities Gordon Ramsay and Adele got in on the action too. 

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