Year-End Review: 5 Top Social Media Stories of 2021

Year-in-Review: Major Social Media Stories of 2021

2021 introduced a new phase of the pandemic as vaccines were rolled out and the first attempts to eradicate COVID-19 began. Life outside the pandemic started to somewhat come back to life (it still is) and people learned to become comfortable with the new normal we are currently living in.

Although the pandemic continued to be a hot topic on social media in 2021, many unprecedented events took place that took some of the spotlight. And many of those events happened within just the first half of the year.

With just 17 days left in 2021, here is a recap of 5 top stories on social media this year.

1. Capitol Riot

Not even a week into the year, rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on the day Congress was set to certify Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. The riot was heavily documented across multiple social media platforms and caught the attention of people across the world. The riot trended for days as information developed. Of the top 50 U.S. trending topics on Twitter that day, more than half were focused on the events at the Capitol.

While media coverage of the event was extensive, many who took part in the riot also documented the day on their own personal social media accounts. This led police to multiple arrests of rioters that were there that day.

2. Trump Banned from Social Media Platforms

Just hours after the events at the Capitol, Former President Donald Trump was suspended for 24 hours from Instagram and Facebook. A statement explained the decision and said he used his account to “incite violent insurrection.” The next day Facebook announced that Trump would be banned indefinitely (which was later adjusted to a two-year ban after pushback from Facebook’s Oversight Board). Two days after the riots, Twitter also announced that it would suspend Trump’s Twitter account permanently.

While some social media users believe it to be the right move (even if it’s too late), many others questioned if this decision violates free speech.

screenshot of @realdonaldtrump account on Twitter

3. COVID-19 Vaccines Roll Out

As the U.S. rolled out COVID-19 vaccines, social media became a way for users to discuss and debate the vaccines. Social media platforms like Facebook created vaccine photo frames for users to use to promote the vaccine while sites like Instagram offered a COVID-19 Information Center to help users get verified COVID-19 information.

While social media companies tried to be helpful with promoting the vaccine, many users used their social media profiles to spread misinformation about the possible vaccine side effects. Social media has been blamed for the spread of misinformation about the vaccines and many say it plays a role in vaccine hesitancy. As we reach the 1-year anniversary of the vaccine rollout, the vaccine continues to be a hot topic amongst social media users.

4. Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson go to Space

In July, billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson made history when they traveled to space on separate commercial space flights. Branson traveled aboard his Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo and Bezos made the trip in his Blue Origin Spacecraft. The competing billionaires received backlash from social media as users criticized the use of their money. The space trips also led to numerous laughs on social media as users shared memes about both Bezos and Branson’s flights.

5. Afghanistan Withdrawal

August 30, 2021, marked the day the U.S. completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending the 20-year war. While most Americans favored the removal of U.S. troops from the country, President Biden’s handling of the withdrawal received mixed reactions from social media users.

Some criticized the way the U.S. handled withdrawing from Afghanistan when a bombing at the Kabul airport killed over 100 people, including 13 U.S. service members, and photos surfaced on social media of supposed abandoned U.S. military equipment. Photos and videos on social media also showed users the condition of the country during the withdrawal.

2021 was undeniably a crazy year. As the year closes out, all we can hope for is smooth sailing through the end of the year and a brighter 2022!

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Vanessa Martinez is a Senior Account Executive at PR Newswire. When she’s not working, she can be found taking weekend trips, hiking or with playing with her 3 dogs.

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