Twitter Reveals 18 Emerging Trends That Marked U.S. Cultural Shifts Since 2016

The social network analyzed billions of tweets

Twitter used human coding and machine learning to determine the most-used hashtags Paviem/iStock
Headshot of David Cohen

Twitter analyzed billions of tweets from Jan. 1, 2016, through June 30, 2019, and boiled them down into 18 emerging trends that highlight fundamental shifts in culture in the U.S.

The social network used both human coding and machine learning to determine the most-used hashtags and map them into cluster themes of conversation, and then removed commonplace topics, such as politics and sports, in order to focus on significant growth areas and contextual shifts in conversation.

Twitter then worked with cultural insights experts at CrowdDNA to arrive at 18 emerging trends.

The social network also used tools from Crimson Hexagon and Talkwalker, along with internal tools, to determine tweet volumes in monthly increments, geo-filtered for the U.S. market, and compare growth statistics from the first quarter of 2016 through the second quarter of this year.

Finally, all of that information was packaged into an immersive website unveiled by Twitter Monday, with dedicated Trend Packs for each of the 18 trends offering data on conversation growth, key drivers, related hashtags and emoji sentiment, as well as example tweets.

Twitter said it intends to refresh these insights annually, as well as to expand the initiative into markets outside of the U.S. next year.

The six overarching themes and 18 trends follow:

  • Well-being: Twitter said that while discussion used to be dominated by body image, diet and physical appearance, healthy mind and whole-body wellness have emerged. Trends in this theme are data-driven bodies, holistic health and being well together.
  • Everyday wonder: “The more people learn about the universe, the more in awe of it they become,” Twitter wrote, noting fascination with planets, climate change and extreme weather, as well as spiritual energy and healing. The social network’s standout statistic: Conversation around spiritual practices that were once considered New Age—such as yoga, chakras, Zen and mindfulness—fell 45% during the time period it studied, while discussion around alternative spirituality (healing, energy, astrology in relation to spiritual practices) skyrocketed 168%. Trends in this theme are DIY spirituality, in awe of nature and cosmic fascination.
  • Creator culture: The creative arena was once dominated by artists, writers and musicians, but now, makers, builders and entrepreneurs have grabbed seats, as well. Twitter’s standout stat: Unsigned musician hashtags rose 113% during the time period analyzed. Trends in this theme are creative currency, hustle life and connecting through video.
  • My identity: People have never felt more empowered to be their true selves and make their own rules. Stereotypes are being shattered, and issues of gender and diversity have come to the forefront. Trends in this theme are fandom, gender redefined and represent me.
  • One planet: Respect for the planet is being demanded of people, their communities and businesses, and there is a focus on taking action and finding innovative solutions to create a more sustainable culture. Twitter’s standout stat: Conversation around environmental veganism shot up 235% during the period studied. Trends in this theme are ethical self, sustainable steps and clean corporations.
  • Tech life: Technology continues to change how people learn, create and work, and people are imagining a future that is more connected, more efficient and more expansive. The social network’s standout stat: Conversation about a fourth industrial revolution grew 340% during the period studied. Trends in this theme are blended realities, future tech and tech angst.

Twitter said, “Having this level of insight into the topics that are of growing importance to consumers is incredibly valuable in the creative development—and even product development—phases of marketing, as well as participating in the conversation with consumers. We’re sharing these insights to help marketers stay on the leading edge of culture and get a deeper understanding of what’s starting to matter more to consumers. Our goal is to inspire powerful and award-winning campaigns in 2020.” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.