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What Happened in Social Media in 2021

By: Athena Alexander

2021 was a year of change, especially online. Due to the pandemic in 2021, many people were dependent on the internet for work, entertainment, and personal connections and relationships. In addition to personal development, businesses rely on social media and online platforms to spread brand awareness and connect with their audiences. With the world focusing on the internet, social media apps including Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube went through updates to maintain user engagement and improve the platforms.


Instagram added new video features and took others away to advance their app and adjust for the future. Users also had more tools to personalize their profiles and express themselves. 

  • Instagram Reels were introduced to users in 2021. Reels are short videos that can be recorded for up to 60 seconds and that users can upload to their regular Instagram feed and to a feed where only Reels are shown in a randomized order. The Reel feed has a separate algorithm that shows reels to users based on searches, watch history, and what Instagram thinks will go viral. Due to this algorithm, videos can be seen days, weeks, and months after a user initially posts them. This can build more engagement over time and can lead to more interactions on a user's page!

  • Unfortunately, IGTV was taken off the platform and was replaced with Instagram Video, where a user can upload any video for up to 10 minutes onto their feed. This addition is different from a reel because this kind of video only goes into the main feed with photos, not the reel. A reel must be uploaded as a reel and not as a regular post.

  • A user became able to add their pronouns to their bio, making Instagram profiles more personalized and inclusive.

  • Users can add closed captioning when speaking in a post or story. Words will pop up on the screen so viewers can understand what is happening in the video even if they are unable to listen to it. These features give users the ability to make their pages more personal and accessible.

TikTok 2021 was the year of TikTok! It has become one of the fastest-growing platforms, reaching 1 billion users last year. The app started to gain popularity in 2020 when the world shifted online during the pandemic and continued to grow in 2021. The major advancements in the app were focused on video settings and ads.

  • TikTok videos were extended from 15-to-60 secs. to up to 3 minutes. The platform was known for its short videos and the ability to have a longer video that wasn't too long helped creators fit more content into a singular video.

  • Spark ads, a way for brands to boost content, were introduced in 2021. These ads have tripled some brands' engagement! These ads are unique because they are posts from real accounts and contribute to the organic growth of the post.


2021 brought many changes to Facebook, with new features and new company names.

  • The Metaverse was created in 2021. This new name, Meta, introduced a new element to the company and its expansion into virtual reality.

  • Facebook Reels, short videos that can be posted on the Facebook feed, were introduced in 2021. These videos drive content engagement and give users a wider selection of what they can post!

  • Launched in 2021, Audio Spaces is a space where users can talk with up to 50 other users in discussion rooms and panels. Users are now able to further communicate and connect with other users of the Metaverse.


Youtube went through changes to increase user activity with new features and new ways for e-commerce to grow!

  • YouTube Shorts, short videos that are less than 15 seconds long that can be uploaded to a user’s channel, were added to YouTube. Users are now able to show shorter clips of their content to drive engagement and show new perspectives to their viewers.

  • Video Chapters are a function where content can be sectioned off for long videos to make videos more user-friendly. Users can navigate, fast-forward, or rewind content easily with this function.

  • Live Shopping is a shoppable livestream where users can show off exclusive access to products, discounts, and giveaways. It will be a way for YouTube to connect other users, online shopping, and YouTube creators together!

Overall, short videos, personalization of platforms/profiles, and shopping were the most popular kinds of advancements that were added to these popular platforms. Although there were many smaller updates that happened to each app, the changes discussed above were monumental for these platforms. Every day, trends are changing, and apps must keep up with what users like and don’t like. It is exciting to see what other changes will happen in 2022!


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