The 2010s saw a revolution in pop culture with new trends emerging and transforming society. Social media became an integral part of communication, connecting people around the globe, creating viral trends and online activism. Superhero movies dominated the box office, streaming TV changed how we consume media, and reality TV continued to captivate millions of viewers. The #MeToo movement brought about a shift in personal and professional accountability, while K-pop exploded in popularity worldwide. Memes, LGBTQ+ rights, influencer culture, and climate activism also left lasting impacts on culture. With the new decade upon us, it will be exciting to see what new trends will emerge and define the future.
The Top 10 Pop Culture Trends That Defined the 2010s
As we enter the next decade, it’s time to reflect on the pop culture phenomena that defined the past ten years. From viral memes to music revolutions, these trends captured the zeitgeist and left a lasting impact on our society. Here are the top 10 pop culture trends that shaped the 2010s.
1. Social Media
The rise of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram transformed the way we communicate and connect with each other. People could share their thoughts, photos, and experiences instantly with a global audience, leading to new forms of online activism, brand partnerships, and influencer culture. Social media also brought us viral trends like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the Harlem Shake, and the Mannequin Challenge, showcasing the power of collective participation in digital spaces.
2. Superhero Films
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and DC Extended Universe (DCEU) dominated the box office throughout the 2010s, with films like Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther, Wonder Woman, and The Dark Knight Rises becoming cultural phenomena. These superhero movies blended action, humor, and social commentary while expanding their fan bases to diverse demographics. They also created spin-off TV shows, merchandise lines, and cosplay communities, inspiring a new generation of aspiring heroes.
3. Streaming TV
The rise of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms offered viewers unprecedented access to high-quality TV shows, documentaries, and movies on-demand. With shows like Stranger Things, The Crown, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Orange Is the New Black, and Black Mirror, streaming TV became a new form of entertainment for binge-watchers, critics, and awards shows alike. It also challenged the traditional broadcast TV model and sparked debates about the future of television production and consumption.
4. Reality TV
Reality TV continued to dominate the airwaves in the 2010s, with shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Survivor, and The Voice attracting millions of viewers worldwide. These shows mixed drama, romance, competition, and humor into addictive formats that made stars out of ordinary people. They also created controversies, scandals, and cultural debates about body image, gender roles, and ethics in reality TV production.
5. #MeToo Movement
The #MeToo movement, which began in 2017 after multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Harvey Weinstein, became a global reckoning with toxic masculinity and gender inequality in various industries, including Hollywood, politics, and sports. Women and men shared their stories of harassment and abuse on social media using the hashtag, leading to a shift in personal and professional accountability, workplace policies, and cultural norms. The movement also sparked debates about consent, power dynamics, and intersectionality in feminist activism.
The Korean pop music industry, or K-Pop, exploded in popularity worldwide in the 2010s, with groups like BTS, BLACKPINK, EXO, and TWICE becoming global sensations. The genre blended innovative music videos, catchy hooks, and synchronized dance routines with diverse concepts, languages, and cultures, appealing to fans of all ages and backgrounds. K-Pop also created new business models for music production, distribution, and fandom culture, paving the way for other Asian entertainment industries.
The rapid spread of memes, or viral images, videos, and phrases, became a new form of online communication and humor in the 2010s. Memes like Pepe the Frog, Dat Boi, Harambe, and the Distracted Boyfriend became internet sensations, reflecting current events, pop culture, and everyday life in creative and relatable ways. Memes also spawned new genres like reaction videos, reaction images, and TikTok challenges, showcasing the evolution of internet culture.
8. LGBTQ+ Rights
The 2010s saw significant progress in LGBTQ+ rights, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in several countries and states, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the U.S. military, and the representation of LGBTQ+ characters in TV shows and movies. The LGBTQ+ community also became more visible and vocal in their demands for equality, dignity, and safety, inspiring new waves of activism, art, and media representation. This paved the way for more inclusive narratives and policies, although challenges and setbacks remain.
9. Influencer Culture
Influencer culture, or the monetization of social media fame, became a lucrative industry in the 2010s, with Instagram models, beauty gurus, travel bloggers, and lifestyle vloggers earning millions of dollars from sponsorships, brand deals, and merchandising. Influencers created new genres like “unboxing” videos, “haul” videos, and “get-ready-with-me” videos, showcasing their personalities and lifestyles to millions of followers. Influencer culture also raised questions about authenticity, privacy, and accountability in online advertising and personal branding.
10. Climate Activism
The increasing urgency of climate change in the 2010s sparked a new wave of climate activism, led by young people like Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement. These activists organized worldwide protests, social media campaigns, and public speeches, demanding action from governments and corporations to address the ecological crisis. Climate activism also highlighted the intersections of social justice, equity, and sustainability, and prompted new discussions and initiatives in politics, business, and culture.
The 2010s were a transformative decade in pop culture, marked by unprecedented changes in technology, politics, and social norms. These top 10 trends, among others, captured the diversity, creativity, and challenges of the times, and left a lasting impact on our cultural landscape. As we move into the 2020s, it will be exciting to see what new phenomena emerge and how they shape our future.