More conversations about gender symbols and inclusive language, about black history and the legacy of colonialism or about the importance of showing the human body as it really is and not as advertising idealizes it. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has published a study on what was talked about on its social networks during 2021 and which points to where “the most important cultural trends behind the data” are moving.
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The analysis has been prepared thanks to the conversations of “3,500 million people” who use Facebook and Instagram, complemented by a macro survey of 36,000 people around the world. Mark Zuckerberg’s company is the only one that can carry out a social X-ray of this scale. But make no mistake: this is a public report prepared by the corporation to guide advertisers, so it avoids any risky subject for their interests. In 57 pages he does not mention the word “vaccine” or “disinformation” once, and only five “coronavirus” or “COVID-19”, which he uses to introduce how the pandemic has affected the feelings of his users.
Despite this, the data of Meta not only serve to focus advertising but show where the global conversation is moving. The company has flexed the muscle that gives it its ability to listen to what its billions of users are saying and pinpoints “the trends that are most likely to turn something quirky into something normal.” Among the 600,000 topics of interest to users that it has detected, it highlights four large groups that set the tone for these changes.
The first feature Meta points to over the last 15 months covered by the study is “new, more fluid identities.” “Diversified identities” that have multiplied the conversation about gender, with a 2,855% growth in debates about symbols, 113% about roles and 40% more about equality. Much more has also been said about the pronouns assigned to each gender (+110%) and neutral language (+68%).
“In many of the markets analyzed, the conversations on the rise are more focused on gender equality and, in some Western markets, they are more focused towards gender equality. gender fluidityreveals Meta. “Young people are driving this debate: a quarter of Gen Z respondents think their gender identity will change at least once in their lifetime.”
In the field of Meta identities, a section is devoted to racial issues, cultural heritage and historical identity. “Many people seek to have meaningful conversations about these painful topics to improve their racial education“, he exposes. “These conversations can be challenging, but they are essential and include hot topics such as indigenous people“, which is now talked about 157% more than before. In addition, the corporation comments that “42% of those surveyed say that their nationality, ethnicity, country of origin or race is more important now to define their identity than it does one year.” The trend is accentuated among young people from countries where colonialism marginalized local cultures.
The network corporation also highlights the increase in self-reflection on one’s own body and the beauty standards imposed by the advertising industry. Increasingly, public discourse refers to new topics such as body positivity and fat acceptance“, states the report. The debates around the first point increased by 96% and on the second, an average of 19%.
In this Meta section, a series of trends are included in the debates on personal relationships that take place on its platforms, but also on those established between people and technology, highly affected by the digitalization pandemic. On this, the report highlights the growth of conversations about the need to “manage screen time” (+153%) and “reevaluate digital consumption or even the temporary disconnection” (+30%).
A peaceful sexual revolution led by non-traditional leaders is brewing
The point regarding interpersonal relationships is one on which Meta is most explicit: “A peaceful sexual revolution led by non-traditional leaders is brewing and will evolve in the coming years, with some rethinking the boundaries of society.” In 2021 there has been 44% more talk about polyamory, 40% more about non-monogamous relationships, 68% more about love relationships between three people and 62% about open relationships. “Research reveals that a catalyst behind this movement is middle-aged women rediscovering themselves after divorce.”
The corporation fits within this trend an increase in the search for “nanocommunities”. The pattern is not new, as as many as 600 million people said last year that they belong to a Facebook group that is important to their lives. What’s new is that this search for connections is expanding to smaller topics, such as “Instagram cooks” (+79%), crochet (+41%) or crystal healing (+105%).
“We are re-evaluating traditional education and hybrid work, while looking for new professions,” says Meta. The trend of seeing the learning phase as lifelong is on the rise, reflected in the increase in conversations about personal development while working, which is up 337%. “Around the world, the majority of baby boomers still highly value a college education. By contrast, Gen Z is more inclined to explore options,” reveals the corporation.
The pandemic has also marked what people expect from work and how it is necessary for it to make room for the rest of life and be more flexible. The topic of “occupational exhaustion” increased by 125% and that of “paid leave” by 236%. “A myth busted from COVID: people don’t move around the world to work remotely. It’s just the other way around: a historically low level of commuting was recorded. But everyone values the freedom to choose how and where to work,” says Meta. .
And one of the themes of the year, the crypto world. The conversation about NFT has been one of the ones that has grown the most, with 11,480%, although it is true that in the period prior to the study it was a residual topic. Discussions about cryptocurrencies grew by 194% and those about the blockchain technology on which they are based, by 103%. “This interest is driven by millennials, as many of them feel left out of the mainstream and unable to develop their financial futures,” the report says.
Finally, Meta brings together in an epigraph a series of personal values on the rise and interests that are gaining strength. She points out as one of them the increase in the defense of products (+ 61%) and local stores (+ 55%). “Around the world, 58% of those surveyed say they try to shop at local businesses even if it’s more expensive,” she adds. This trend contrasts with the 61% of users who say they feel “citizens of the world.” Conversations about “attitude” were up 262%, those about “authenticity” were up 135% and those about “volunteering” were up 256%.