A Meta-Review of All The End-of-Year Social Media Trend Reports

2023 trend reports
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It’s December, so of course, my inbox is flooded with a slew of deeply sanitized and eerily optimistic PR emails from social media companies about “end-of-year” trends and predictions. These lists are usually dry, giving an unsurprising select group of creators a pat on the back, but typically lack enough substance to give the vast majority of creators any real hope about the future of their careers on the internet. 

Still, I usually end up spending some time reading them all, so I thought I’d share some of my (very subjective) musings about the ones that came out last week. (DISCLAIMER: There are a lot of obscure references to Internet trends below, if you don’t know who Baby Gronk is or what adult-baby-diaper-lovers are, that makes sense. I’ll hyperlink some sources for you.)

Year on TikTok 2023” – 3/10

First up, we have “Year on TikTok 2023” — a report honoring the “stand-out” viral trends, pop songs, and rising stars on TikTok in 2023. Darlings like food reviewer Keith Lee, family man Ricardo Mendoza, southern belle Terri Joe, and Tube Girl got shoutouts. I give TikTok props for being the only platform to highlight cultural moments that I’m actually endeared to: the Grimace Shake, Planet of the Bass, girl dinners, #CozyCardio, how often men think of the Roman Empire, etc. (In my opinion, the biggest L’s of this list are that there’s no mention of the great Tabi heist, by far the best viral moment of 2023, nor of Pinkydoll, the most powerful TikTok trailblazer of 2023.) 

Overall, I’d give this list a very subjective 3/10, because TikTok did find a way to honor some of the trends I personally like, but I want weirder. Give me the top otherkin and adult-diaper-baby-lover furry creators of the year, give me Reborn doll collector discourse, the TikTok resurgence of blue chicken, #OceanGate. Turn me into a busty anime girl, an NPC. Do not sanitize us. (#NotMyTikTok)

At the end of the day though, our TikTok experiences are so siloed. I resist TikTok’s implicit characterization of “breakout” stars and trends because the platform is the one deciding what things go viral and what things get suppressed

Next up to the chopping block, we have YouTube’s Culture & Trends Report.” Overall, YouTube took a slightly different approach than TikTok in its end-of-year review. It went for a survey format, taking a more quantitative approach to patterns of viewership as opposed to solely cherry-picking trends. 

It did, however, offer a separate page called “Year on YouTube” with its picks of the platform’s top trends and creators of 2023. Skibidi Toilets were mentioned multiple times, which gives YouTube some brownie points. 4/10.


One thing of note is that while TikTok went largely radio silent on AI in its report (only briefly noting the ‘age rewind’ and ‘cartoonify’ AI filters), YouTube went evangelical. In its full trends report, YouTube advocated that AI is “democratizing complicated forms of self-expression, introducing us to a world where unique ideas are the foundation of what breaks through online.”

YouTube is owned by Google, literally Big AI, so this approach is not exactly surprising — although it’s interesting to note the difference between the two platforms. I imagine TikTok, comparatively, is sweating under the political heat of a potential U.S. ban, while YouTube has a bit more freedom to dip into legally dubious waters and ignore the glaringly obvious ethical red flags raised by creators this year about the tech.

In addition, YouTube’s report says fans want creators to offer multiple forms of content, including long-form content, Shorts, podcasts, and live-stream formats. It also emphasized multi-language translations, reporting that 54% of fans watch content in a different language.

On a high level, this all makes sense. But creators are not robots, and I question the kind of miraculous financial and creative ability required to excel at all these different crafts and dubbing services. (My personal favorite part about YouTube is performing a ridiculous Olympics of multi-tasking each day, watching a 4-hour YouTube video at 2x speed while I’m also scrolling Twitter, cleaning my kitchen, and playing ‘Subway Surfer’ in the background…so I get the appeal of multi-format consumption with dwindling attention spans, I just don’t think it has to be all from one creator.)

Instagram Trend Talk” – 1/10

Moving along to Instagram’s end-of-year “Trend Talk.” I really didn’t like this one because, for some reason, they only focused on Gen Z. I’m not sure why they did this, because their audience is seemingly equally torn between millennials and Gen Zers, and they don’t appear to have any other end-of-year lists. I’m a Gen-Z cusp, born in 1998, and I understand there’s a kind of sick obsession with our generation’s interests as we try to survive this pre-apocalyptic digital landscape. But I’m tired of all these shallow, out-of-touch speculations about our viral habits. Rapid consumerism and consumption of viral content are not exactly unique to our generation at this point.

Overall though, I’m going to give Instagram a 1/10, solely because they did not mention their biggest star of our generation, Baby Gronk, and because they ranked “Modest Dressing” as the #1 predicted fashion trend of Gen Z for 2024, above thrifting. I know most people are religious, but that seems a bit off to me.

Spotify Wrapped” and “Twitch Recap” – 9/10

I’m going to give “Spotify Wrapped” a shout-out here because the Spotify team made a bunch of straight people question if they were gay or not (read more here). And I really like “Twitch Recap” because they added a really cute side-scroller game where you play as a little animated dinosaur as summaries of your 2023 stats pass by on the screen. Adorable!

Both Spotify and Twitch’s recaps are personalized and offer options to see different stats based on whether you’re a viewer or a content creator. It provides many useful insights on your most engaging content types. And they offer fun graphics and sharing options. 9/10!

Worst Tweets of 2023 Bracket” – 10/10

Twitter, at least as far as I can tell, doesn’t really do end-of-year recaps, which is a shame because they could really throw together a chaotic and truly entertaining one this year if they wanted to. However, Jeremiah Johnson stepped up to the plate by making a thread about the “Worst Tweets of 2023 Bracket” of the top “deranged tweets, awful takes, and the most insane discourses on this site,” of which 64 were chosen. Bravo, 10/10. 

Overall, major issues in the creator economy, like the huge tide of labor organization over Hot Labor Summer, were conveniently kept out of these end-of-year round-ups. Anything perceived as taboo by the platforms or damaging to their reputations will, of course, never make it to these celebratory reports (or any reports from platforms in general).

Take some time to celebrate your community and the things you’ve created. But be skeptical. Happy end of 2023!

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