They say time moves faster in our online lives. Countless pieces of content are competing for our collective attention at the same time. Meanwhile, trending topics rise and fall so quickly that each digital day can feel like a month in analog times.
2022 was no different, with an abundance of topics that seemed to be everywhere all of a sudden and gone the next. What were the most popular topics on social media? Let's recap: The meteoric rise of Wordle. The cultural sensation that is Corn Kid. The 2022 Winter Olympics. The LA Rams’ Super Bowl win. The popularization of the phrase “goblin mode.” The hype around new seasons of shows like Euphoria, Stranger Things, House of the Dragon, and The Crown. And, of course, the Philadelphia man who ate 40 chickens in 40 days. Yes, all of these events happened this year.
But despite how short our digital attention spans may be, some of this year’s most published, Tweeted, and posted-about moments on social media caught our attention for longer than some might assume. We used our social media intelligence platform to analyze mentions of five of the biggest events that happened this year on social media platforms Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, Pinterest, WeChat, TikTok, Twitch, Sina Weibo, Douyin, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. The data reveals that a social media minute may not be so short after all.
5 of the Most Mentioned Topics on Social Media in 2022
In 2022, some of the topics that had the biggest impacts on our social media feeds included (in order from the largest share of voice to the smallest):
- Russian Invasion of Ukraine
- 94th Academy Awards
- 2022 FIFA World Cup
- Death and State Funeral of Elizabeth II
- 2022 Monkeypox Outbreak
From pop culture moments to heavy world events, digital mentions of these topics demonstrated how social media platforms are venues for sustained discussion and awareness-raising. So while social posts may be short, they can add up to wider conversations that are quite long. Here’s a closer look at the common threads in these top social media topics of 2022.
Most Mentioned: Russian Invasion of Ukraine
One world event that unquestionably captured social media’s attention this year was also one of this year’s gravest. Mentions of keywords related to the war in Ukraine spiked on February 24, 2022, the day Russia launched a full-scale military invasion of the nation. From there, social media users didn’t turn away. The escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War remained a much-discussed topic across nearly all global platforms we analyzed, as shown in the chart of share of voice by platform below.
Social media conversations about the war and humanitarian crisis generated nearly as many total mentions as all of the other topics we compared combined, as shown in the share of voice chart below.
Multiple Spikes: The 94th Academy Awards, Queen Elizabeth II, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup
As the above chart showing mentions over time illustrates, the 94th Academy Awards, the death and funeral of Elizabeth II, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup all were highly-discussed topics on social media that saw more than one spike in conversation.
Mentions of the Academy Awards, aka the Oscars, first spiked on February 8 when award nominations were announced. They spiked again the night of the awards thanks to the event Wikipedia calls the “Will Smith–Chris Rock slapping incident.” Finally, the conversation, now dominated by talk about the incident, caused a final blip in the social media collective consciousness in early April. On the 1st, Will Smith resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which, a week later, decided to ban him from attending the awards ceremony for the next decade.
In an #Oscars moment that shocked viewers, #WillSmith had an on-air altercation with #ChrisRock in response to a joke made at his wife's expense. The incident has garnered a staggering 5.91M mentions so far, and the number is sure to increase as more information comes to light. pic.twitter.com/ETbFRB1J1i— Meltwater (@Meltwater) March 28, 2022
Mentions of Queen Elizabeth II also spiked multiple times in 2022. The first occurred in early June during the Platinum Jubilee celebration of her 70th year on the throne. The next and significantly larger spikes took place on September 8, the day she died, and the 19th, the day of her state funeral. Between those two dates, Queen Elizabeth was perhaps the most-discussed person in the world.
Finally, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar was the topic that captured social media attention to close out the year. However, the first spikes in social conversations about the tournament occurred in late March and early April, as the qualifying teams were determined, opening opponents were drawn, the official soundtrack was released, and the official mascot was revealed. Spikes corresponding with the opening match on November 20 and final match on December 18 bookended the massive number of total social media mentions about the Cup.
Sustained Discussion: Monkeypox Outbreak
The ongoing monkeypox outbreak generated much social media discussion in 2022. But unlike the other topics on our list, social conversations about it were not marked by dramatic spikes in mentions. Instead, social media users generated millions of mentions about the monkeypox outbreak in the many months since it began in early May.
The most significant activity was a long bump in mentions from late July to mid-August. Still, like the other topics on this list, social conversations about the monkeypox outbreak have petered out by the end of the year. However, its trend of steady mentions throughout the months is the one that most resembles those of COVID-19. Though not a new topic this year, mentions of the pandemic — whether constructive or harmful — dwarfed new topics of 2022. By December’s end, the conversation was a fifth of its volume at the beginning of 2022 but still was larger than all of the other topics we looked at combined.
From the extraordinarily consequential to less so, the top social topics of the year caught our attention for longer than a social media minute. Arguably, the one quality each of these conversations had in common was that they were driven by uncertainty. Questions about how each one would play out, reverberate, or end kept social media users logged into platforms looking for community as much as they were for answers.
Social media networks may always be where we go to get a word in on flash-in-the-pan trends, but it’s also an essential site of conversation for more pressing, long-term topics. While that’s good news for community-building, it also makes the threats and consequences of misinformation that much more acute.
There are big, likely unpredictable, changes ahead for social media users in 2023, but social media’s ubiquity isn’t going anywhere. If there’s one lesson to take away from these top topics of 2022, it’s this: Not every topic drops off our collective, global radar so soon. With each spike in conversation made up of millions of short dispatches, it’s worth asking, What does all of my social media outputs build up to and why?