The Year In Instagram: The 20 Biggest Trends From 2020

From celebrity challenges to charcuterie boards.

by Mia Mercado
MGM;The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images

How do you measure a year like 2020? In daylights? In sunsets? In months stuck in quarantine and empty bottles of hand sanitizer? While our year was one of unprecedented times — especially in our use of the phrase "unprecedented times" — one thing remained the same: we spent a lot of time on Instagram. The biggest Instagram trends of 2020 show a year filled with sourdough starters, charcuterie boards, and celebs trying their absolute hardest to be relatable. Cue Imagine by *checks notes*... Gal Gadot.

We are quickly approaching Top Nine season on Instagram. Soon, our feeds will be filled with nine-square posts highlighting people's most popular pics from 2020. If the year as a whole is any indication, our Top Nine posts will be chaotic and unpredictable. There will be less glamorous selfies and fun group shots and significantly more screenshots of Zoom calls and photos of us in the five-day-old sweatpants.

Here, in mostly chronological order, are 20 of the biggest Instagram trends of 2020. They are best enjoyed in a whistful reverie or while listening to "Stupid Love" by Lady Gaga, a song that came out at the beginning of the year and not, as you might have thought, at least two years ago.


The Dolly Parton Challenge

Early in the year, Dolly Parton inspired an Instagram meme when she posted a four-picture grid of herself captioned with four different social media platforms: LinkedIn (professional and put together), Facebook (casual and G-rated), Instagram (aesthetically pleasing), and Tinder (hot and also hot).


Charcuterie Boards

Charcuterie board influencers have slowly but surely started taking over our feeds with their gorgeously folded deli meats, but they really came to a head this year. If you didn't attempt to arrange cheese in an aesthetically pleasing way, did you even live through 2020?


Florence Pugh Cooking

300 months ago, in February, the internet sat engrossed by actor Florence Pugh's marmalade-making Instagram Stories. They were charming! They were informative! They were the delicious calm before the storm that was 2020.


Until Tomorrow

You might have a hard time finding any "until tomorrow" Instagram posts as the whole point of the challenge was to post a photo (be it old or of your trashcan) sans explanation and leave it up for 24 hours. Some people would DM anyone who liked their "until tomorrow" photo telling them they had to do the same — an ugly Insta chain letter, if you will. While those photos may be gone, the memories live on in our hearts and screenshotted in our camera rolls.


The Gossip Girl Meme

Like most things that are Very Online, there is really no rhyme or reason to why a meme about Gossip Girl took over our social feeds this year. Perhaps it was a combination of nostalgia and quarantine delirium that made it nearly impossible to scroll through Instagram without seeing the two-panel meme: one with Blake Lively's Serena van der Woodsen asking a benign question, one with Leighton Meester's Blair Waldorf answering via a poorly photoshopped combination of letters from the words "Gossip Girl." It wild and weird and, apparently, exactly what we needed at the start of lockdown. Even Blake Lively agreed.


All Instagram Live Everything

After a few weeks, quarantine's hottest club quickly became Instagram Live. As in-person events were canceled and shows postponed, everyone from comedians to musicians to chefs to personal trainers took to streaming on Instagram.


Pillow Challenge

The quarantine pillow challenge turned fluffy bedding into fashion.



From sourdough starters to garden Foccacia, everyone was clamoring to buy yeast and showing off their carb-y creations on Instagram.


First Photo Challenge

While we were feeling nostalgic at the start of lockdown, couples posted the first photo they took together if only to show how little they've aged.


Ina Garten’s Giant Martini

Ina Garten showed us how to make a giant martini. Thus, the internet saw a meme-worthy opportunity and took it.


The Photo Dump

At some point, we all got tired and just started posting a bunch of pics at once for no reason lovingly dubbed a Photo Dump. These are best when there's no cohesive theme, half of them look bad, and your caption is something purposefully non-descript like "sup?"


#BlackoutTuesday & The Black Square

In the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a cultural conversation about racism was reignited. Amidst weeks of protesting and brands responding to the Black Lives Matter movement, #BlackoutTuesday was born. Originating in the music industry with Atlantic Records' senior director of marketing Jamila Thomas, the initiative started as a call for collective cultural pause. A now-deleted post from Thomas called on industry professionals to "pause on Tuesday, June 2nd because the show can’t just go on as our people are being hunted and killed."

But the intention of the day quickly became lost, in large part due to non-black allies posting black squares and using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. It flooded the #BLM hashtags with blank squares, suppressing important information, as activist and writer Raquel Willis noted. Despite the confused execution of #BlackoutTuesday, black activists like Latham Thomas have continued using their platforms to emphasize non-optical allyship and how to be actively anti-racist.


“Challenge Accepted”

Iterations of this trend resurface every few years. In 2016, celebs posted black-and-white selfies with the caption "challenge accepted" to raise awareness for cancer. This year, some used the "challenge accepted" photo to raise awareness for femicide in Turkey while others appeared to link it to general female empowerment.


What ____ Are U?

The internet loves a personality test, especially one that requires little effort and says nearly nothing. Thus, we've all found out what frog we are, what dog we are, what renaissance baby we are, even what Harry Styles we are. All based solely on our names. It's like finding a souvenir keychain that says "Becky" but the keychain is an Australian Shepherd.


Reese Witherspoon Challenge

The Reese Witherspoon Challenge had us posting a collage of nine pictures, each captioned with a different month. Like our collective mental state, each picture got progressively more unhinged. It was like “choose your fighter” COVID-19-edition.


Outdoor Mirror Selfie

Finding new ways to make our selfies look less like selfies became a staple of 2020. Some chose the route of the self-timer. Others took a bolder, braver approach and lugged a mirror outside.


Powerpoint-style Graphics

A growing number of people have started using slideshow graphics on Instagram to talk through everything from things not to say to a black woman to self-care.


Thirst Trap The Vote

Weeks before the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, celebrities encouraged us mere mortals to get out and vote the best way they know how: by reminding us how hot they are. Thus, Thirst Trap The Vote was born.


Celebrity Elf On The Shelf

The celebs are at it again, this time with an Elf on the Shelf-style meme. There's Grease on Reese, Hanks on Banks, even Stark on Mark.


My Plans Vs. 2020

LOL @ the idea of having "plans." What even are "plans"?