The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the most unprecedented and challenging years of modern times. From the Australian bushfires to COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and the U.S election, it has been a tumultuous year of change. Here, we take a look at this iconic year in review.
Words of the year
The Oxford Word of the Year reflects the year’s ‘ethos, mood or preoccupations’ and has the potential for lasting cultural significance. Normally there is only one word of each year, yet ‘given the phenomenal breadth of language change and development during 2020, Oxford Languages concluded that this is a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word’, with a number of words being identified as words of the year.
- Bushfire (Jan 2020, to depict the Australian bushfire season, the worst on record)
- Coronavirus and the subsequent abbreviation of COVID-19 (March 2020, a completely new word introduced by the World Health Organisation to describe the disease)
- Lockdown (April 2020, the preferred term for government-enforced quarantine measures)
- Social distancing (April 2020, the phrase to describe the measures introduced by Governments to stop the spread of COVID-19)
- Black Lives Matter (June 2020, used to describe the protests against law enforcement agencies over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other black Americans in communities across the United States and the world)
- Cancel Culture (July 2020, a term to describe the culture of boycotting and withdrawing support from public figures whose words and actions are considered socially unacceptable)
- Superspreader (Oct 2020, used to describe those who cause an outbreak of COVID-19, originating from the well-publicised spread of cases in the White House).
‘The fact that in 2020 we don’t have just one word of the year – but several – demonstrates how much of an unusual year it was. While we have all been told this year that we are living in ‘unprecedented times’ and we need to ‘adapt’ and ‘pivot’ to the ‘new normal’, some of this new vocabulary is starting to wear thin for Australians. Our research has shown that the phrases that Australians are most sick of are ‘all in this together’ (18%), ‘social distancing’ (13%) and ‘unprecedented times’ (12%).’ – Ashley Fell, Social Researcher.
Australia’s most Googled terms of 2020
The most searched terms on Google reveal what we are most curious about. The top overall Google searches were:
- US election
- Coronavirus symptoms
Most downloaded apps
Social media apps are the most popular apps in the world, with TikTok overtaking Facebook as the most downloaded app. Other Facebook owned platforms like Whatsapp and Instagram round out the top five, with Zoom (the only non-social media app in the top five) breaking through in 2020 to become the fourth most downloaded app of 2020.
‘Not surprisingly, the most downloaded apps of 2020 were ones that helped us stay connected with others when we had to social distance and isolate. In 2020, social media apps like TikTok and Instagram became important pathways for, particularly younger generations, to share in the lockdown and social distancing measures they were experiencing, with others. It helped people to stay connected and provided humorous ways of understanding and coping with the vast amount of change that 2020 brought.’ – Ashley Fell, Social Researcher.
Most liked Instagram posts
More than 40% of Australians use Instagram, or 10 million active users. The most liked photo of 2020 was posted by Cristiano Ronaldo, a post in remembrance of Diego Maradona which accrued 19.5 million likes. This was followed closely by a post from Chadwick Boseman’s account in which his family announced his tragic death, which amassed 19.1 million likes.
What we tweeted about most
Twitter has been making a comeback in the last few years, in part boosted by the Trump-effect, and being the platform of choice for real-time updates as the news cycle increases its velocity.
- The most retweeted tweet and most liked tweet of all time was the tweet announcing Chadwick Boseman’s passing. It received 7.6 million likes.
- #COVID19 and #BlackLivesMatter were the most tweeted hashtags of the year.
- President Donald Trump, whose own tweeting is legendary, was the most tweeted about person of 2020. Donald Trump’s use of Twitter to communicate directly with the public and bypass the traditional media is unlike any other politician, although Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Narendra Modi and Kamala Harris were also among the most tweeted-about global figures.
- George Floyd, Kobe Bryant, Kanye West and Elon Musk also made the list of the most tweeted about people worldwide.
- The Korean boy band, BTS, continued from 2019 as this year’s most tweeted about musicians, becoming a viral phenomenon and amassing 23 million followers on Twitter.
Time person(s) of the year
Each year, Time magazine awards a person of the year to, according to the magazine, someone “who affected the news or our lives the most, for better or worse”. US president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris have been jointly named Time Magazine’s 2020 Person of the Year. The duo broke gender and racial barriers and together “offered restoration and renewal in a single ticket”, Time said in a profile of the pair. Time’s chief executive said the pair received the award for “changing the American story”. Two groups were also considered this year – healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic, and participants in the racial justice movement of Black Lives Matter.
Colour of the year
Pantone has described the colour of the year – Classic Blue – as ‘a timeless and enduring blue hue. PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue is elegant in its simplicity. Suggestive of the sky at dusk, the reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.’
Learnings from 2020
While all that 2020 brought has presented challenges, it also has also provided us with some lessons. Our research found that more than half of Australians (52%) have spent more time with their family/household members and want this to continue in their life in the future. Similarly, half of Australians enjoyed a slower pace of life (49%) and prioritising financial savings (49%), and want this to continue. The love for the outdoors has also been rekindled with a third of Australians (34%) having spent more time in nature. Interestingly, more than one in four Australians (26%) have spent more time praying or on spiritual pursuits and would like this to continue in their life.
Similarly, transformations to work have also been positive in 2020. Seven in ten employed Australians agree leadership now places a greater priority on employee wellbeing (70%) and mental health (69%). More than three in five (65%) said they experienced greater flexibility on where and when they worked, with 51% agreeing that remote working became the default. There is now a greater openness to change and more than half of employed Australians (55%) believe their workplace used 2020 as a chance to invest in growth and development for their business.
‘Although 2020 brought about unforeseen challenges, it’s also worth noting the learnings and positive changes that came out of this tumultuous year. From a recalibrated focus on our wellbeing to changes in how and when we work in the future, this important year will go down as one of great change. Much of what we had pre-COVID-19, we will never see again. We are not moving to the next but the new. It is not a continuation of how things were, but the start of a whole new reality.’ – Ashley Fell, Social Researcher.