Here’s what happened on TikTok in 2021

Now that TikTok is 1 billion users strong, it’s overwhelmingly clear that the app isn’t just a passing fad made popular by the pandemic. It’s a cultural force shaping our thoughts and conversations.

The app has joined the ranks of Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and other platforms as a must-have app. If you miss out on a TikTok, you’ve missed out on many of the most impactful moments of the past year.

According to the TikTok Newsroom blog, Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s Chief Operating Officer, said there’s “something really special” about the diverse community on TikTok that “people just can’t find anywhere else.”

“For us, 2021 was a year for connection, and we’ve seen people on TikTok laughing together, entertaining us, starting cultural phenomenons and teaching us new things,” Pappas added. “It’s been incredible to see the depths of entertainment and creativity from this community, and we’re delighted to celebrate all the ways we’ve come together this year on TikTok.”

Aside from the top trending videos and songs, representatives from the app shared a wealth of highlights from the U.S. side of the platform with In The Know.

The videos that sparked joy

For many people, TikTok has been a source of laughter and heartwarming content, from smiling rescue foxes to major life milestones.

Who could forget the hold that a senior pug named Noodle had on TikTok users as they waited for the pup and his owner @jongraz to declare each day a “Bones Day” or a “No Bones Day”?

@jongraz

happy Monday from Grandma’s house! 🦴🔮🦴 #bonesday #nobones #mondaymotivation #pug #noodletok

♬ original sound – Jonathan

Other highlights include a family’s game of hide-and-seek, a very thankful @pudgywoke and a hungry baby shark.

The creators who broke through the fold

Part of the magic of TikTok is that you can spend the same amount of time on the app as your friend and still never see the same videos as each other.

Though the algorithm is powerfully tuned to serve you exactly what you want, there are still a number of major stars that managed to appeal to wide audiences.

Olivia Rodrigo may be a household name now, but it was a viral TikTok that helped catapult her first hit to the top of the charts. Also new to TikTok was Taylor Swift, who needs no introduction.

You may also have seen Oneya D’Amelio scream positive affirmations, Anna Sitar try Starbucks drinks and Emily Mariko share viral recipes. Chances are you’ve heard Mikayla Nogueira share makeup reviews in her thick Boston accent.

The trends you can’t get anywhere else

Ever feel foolish like a clown, as gorgeous as a Renaissance painting or as panicked as a high-society woman sprinting through Versailles? TikTok got people thinking about all those scenarios with its filter trends in 2021.

Maybe your year was more of a slow zoom or an unsettling inversion. Or maybe it’s still buffering!

It might be a bit silly to think about, but TikTok’s filter trends genuinely affect the way we share experiences and stories about ourselves with the world. If a trend calls for a certain brand of storytelling, users always seem to open up. It’s all part of the app’s known favor toward authenticity.

The changemakers

TikTok has a knack for elevating and uplifting the voices calling for awareness and change.

Representatives from the app highlighted 10 creators who fought for positive change over the last year and beyond.

  • Joel Bervell, TikTok’s medical myth buster, brought racial disparities and biases in health care to light.
  • Scarlett Smith and Tiania Haneline are a mother-daughter duo who shared daily positive affirmations.
  • Victor Fontanez went viral for giving free haircuts to strangers to motivate and inspire them.
  • Alexis Nelson, the queen of foraging TikTok, has been singing her way through the world of edible plants.
  • Otis Jones is an ASL educator who shared his teachings with the world and advocated for the Deaf community.
  • Chante’ Reddest shares informative stories about Native American culture.
  • Jesús Morales uses TikTok to crowdfund money for street vendors in Southern California.
  • Shirley Raines, founder of Beauty 2 The Streetz, provided necessities and beauty services to unhoused people.
  • Jason Linton, an adoptive father of three, promoted positive messages of fatherhood.
  • Hunter Prosper captured the unique backgrounds of people from all walks of life through “Stories from a Stranger.”

The moments of nostalgia

What’s old is new again on TikTok.

In 2021, TikTok saw a number of old favorites come back in style.

Users recreated old Adult Swim bumpers, The Backyardigans hit the charts again, and vinyl collecting was as popular as ever.

Of course, Y2K fashion had a huge resurgence, as did all things ’90s. Thankfully, thrifting also had a huge moment, as did antiques.

The communities you didn’t know you loved

There’s something for everyone out there.

@kaelimaee

lil asmr while i get ready for class today!! finals are approaching😩 #fyp #foryoupage #school #study #asmr #homework #aesthetic #viral

♬ original sound – kaeli mae

This year, the folks at TikTok rounded up 10 communities that took off. Check them out for yourself:

If you enjoyed this story, check out the top TikTok videos of 2021.

In The Know is now available on Apple News — follow us here!

More from In The Know:

These are the 6 ‘limited-time deals’ you don’t want to miss on Amazon today

6 awesome holiday gifts to grab during Bloomingdale’s Friends & Family sale

Amazon customer captures Ring footage of driver’s ‘hysterical’ encounter with her husband

This suitcase is called the ‘Carry-On Closet,’ and it will keep your clothes super organized

Listen to the latest episode of our pop culture podcast, We Should Talk: