A lot happened in 2016. From electoral upsets to celebrity deaths, the world underwent some unexpected seismic shifts last year. Hundreds of millions of people turned to Twitter to experience these moments with other people, from friends and family to strangers across the world.
On Twitter, we mourned, debated, cheered, cried and laughed our way through 2016, so towards the end of the year Twitter launched a new hashtag: #ThisHappened. We have sifted through the data, and our own experience of Twitter in 2016 to create this #Trends Blog.
With over 310 million monthly active users and 500 million Tweets sent each day, there are more trends and #hashtags than anyone can count. Some are global, whereas others are more significant on a national and local scale. Let’s take a look at some of the top trends of 2016.
In the summer of 2016, over 11,000 athletes from 207 countries, participating in 306 events, turned Twitter into a live-stream of sports commentary and friendly patriotism. There were a couple of surprises. Team Great Britain performed even better than when the UK was the host country, in 2012, and this was the first time since 1968 when the Games were in Latin America. America topped the leader board, followed by the UK, China, Russia and Germany.
— TechnicallyRon (@TechnicallyRon) August 5, 2016
— Moe Killington (@sporker_) August 15, 2016
#Election2016 (& #Trump)
Future historians writing about this period will need to mention the role of Twitter in the US 2016 presidential elections. Not since the Arab Spring of 2011 has Twitter played such a pivotal role in political events, giving President-elect (at the time of writing) Donald Trump a public pulpit to make proclamations, accusations, announcements and other ill-informed ramblings.
Political commentators and pollsters were shocked when Trump took the Republican nomination, then the presidency, beating former Secretary of State and First Lady, Hillary Clinton. Journalists are already talking about this as a populist backlash against the so-called “elites” and establishment. Hence, the election of an alleged billionaire with a gold elevator, an active Twitter following, and reality TV show.
The world, including many Trump supporters, waits to see how the Office will shape the man. Twitter will continue to play a role in this unique presidency.
— John Mulaney (@mulaney) August 20, 2015
In 2016, Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar, for his awe-inspiring acting in The Revenant, playing a nineteenth-century huntsman. He endured sub-zero temperatures and ate a raw buffalo liver, so after decades of entertaining and moving us, he most certainly deserved this win!
— Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) February 29, 2016
Another unexpected upset this year was England losing to Iceland in the #Euro2016 tournament. At one point, there were over 128,000 Tweets per minute, with England fans expressing their surprise: defeated by a country with more volcanoes than football players.
UK-Iceland 1-2. Winter is coming.
— Donald Tusk (@donaldtusk) June 27, 2016
— Bate Felix Tabi Tabe (@BateFelix) July 10, 2016
2016 was a truly awful year for celebrity deaths. We lost some of the greats, including:
David Bowie, 1947-2016
Victoria Wood, 1953-2016
Alan Rickman, 1946-2016
Ronnie Corbett, 1930 – 2016
Terry Wogan, 1938 – 2016
Gene Wilder, 1933 – 2016
Muhammad Ali, 1942 – 2016
Prince, 1958 – 2016
Leonard Cohen, 1934 – 2016
Andrew Sachs, 1930 – 2016
George Michael, 1963 – 2016
Carrie Fisher, 1956 – 2016
Debbie Reynolds, 1932 – 2016
And many more talents departed this world in 2016.
Last year was so brutal, tragic and painful for celebrity deaths that it looked like Game of Thrones author, George R. R. Martin had been given the script.
Known for unexpected deaths, HBO’s award-winning show, Game of Thrones did not disappoint in series 6. This season was largely based on original material, with some inspiration drawn from the books. Fans are eagerly awaiting the next season and book. #GameOfThrones is bound to set Twitter on fire when the next one is released.
— Daenerys Targaryen (@Queen_Daenerys_) May 8, 2016
Very early in 2016, tens of thousands of us turned to Twitter to watch people in Newcastle upon Tyne attempt to cross a large puddle. It was fairly early in the working year, so staff at Drummond Central, a marketing agency, blu-tacked an iPhone to a window so they could live-stream the perilous puddle crossing, temporarily bringing office workers and British Twitter users to a standstill.
At one point, Newcastle-based competitor, Orangebus, got in on the action with a surfboard. #DrummondPuddleWatch went viral (in the UK) and even made the news, so not a bad days work for a marketing agency.
— Matt Navarra ⭐️ (@MattNavarra) January 6, 2016
On 23 June 2016, a referendum was held that would forever change Britain’s relationship with Europe. Despite predictions we would remain, 52% of the public voted to leave the EU, which is expected to trigger Article 50 in 2017, after Parliament votes on the terms of the negotiation.
Brexit brought about a swift political earthquake, with David Cameron stepping down and Theresa May taking over as Prime Minister. The government is currently working out the UK’s negotiation position, with a clear indication that a “hard line” is now being implemented. In many respects, this represents a popular backlash similar to the one that has brought Trump to power in the US.
An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman went to a bar.
They all had to leave because the Englishman wanted to go.
— Jordan Tracey (@JordanTracey17) June 26, 2016
Adding to the list of unexpected plot twists in 2016: The Great British Bake Off was sold to Channel 4 for £25m. One of the most popular shows on television and Twitter, Bake Off, averages 14 million viewers per episode. There was drama, disasters and some beautiful baking taking place, keeping many of us glued to our seats and phones, joining in with millions of others reacting to the show on Twitter.
So there we have it. Some of the most important and unexpected moments on Twitter during 2016. More often than not, the most prominent hashtags are the surprises.
— harvey☼ (@harveymurrayy) September 21, 2016
What were your favourite or most memorable Twitter moments in 2016: keep us updated with #ThisHappened in the comments.