If you ask Tumblr, 2016 is the year of the caterpillar.
Specifically, it is the year of Chicken Nugget, a caterpillar who eventually metamorphosed into a butterfly named Chicken Wing. Chicken Wing née Chicken Nugget was the platform’s biggest celebrity of the year, and the story that introduced him to the internet was the most reblogged Tumblr post of 2016.
The second biggest post on Tumblr this year, as reported by the platform, is this pretty unfunny one.
Followed by this one, which makes actually no sense to me at all.
In fact, almost every trend in Tumblr’s year-end roundup seems completely separate from the reality that most of the internet lives in. For the most part, the top memes are not memes that you saw on Twitter or on Facebook or read explainers about on mainstream websites. The list is basically nonsense to me, and at this point I feel 104 years old. Of “tag yourself,” “moodboard,” “inktober,” “history of Japan,” “gemsona,” “the signs as,” “draw the squad,” “dat boi,” “petty revenge,” and “doge,” only four mean anything to me. And doge, for his cute little part, hasn’t been cool in over three years.
Of course, these trends are provided by the platform itself, and when asked if the lists were curated at all beyond sorting posts by reblogs and likes, communications manager Leah Linder told The Verge in an email that the team “went with what was statistically significant” and that the top posts list included only original content that was “SFW” and abided by Tumblr’s terms of service.
The entertainment that was most popular on the platform this year also surprised me (a 104-year-old). The top TV show of the year was the CW’s The 100, and the most popular fan fiction of the year “shipped” two of its main characters. This “Clexa” fiction outpaced the One Direction “Larry Stylinson” fan fiction that has gotten so much attention from outlets like this one in the last couple of years.
Fan fiction still seems to drive the platform in general, with the popular Steve Rogers and Bucky Barns ship propelling Captain America: Civil War to the spot of most-discussed film and Sebastian Stan (Bucky) and Chris Evans (Steve) to the first and second place spots for most-discussed actor. The boy band One Direction, despite being on hiatus for the entire year, is still the third most popular fan fiction and thereby the third most popular band. The most popular TV show of the year on the platform is Supernatural, now in its 12th season — thanks to the popular ship of Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) and an angel named Castiel (Misha Collins).
Linder said Tumblr uses the year-end data hauls to inform programming for the following year, including its AMA-style Answer Time series, its Action on Tumblr social activism program, and its artistic partnerships (such as the one with former One Direction member Zayn Malik in promotion of debut album this spring and the Tumblr he launched this summer).
The most-discussed social issues of the year according to Tumblr are feminism, Black Lives Matter, police brutality, equality, terrorism, representation, disability, diversity, refugees, and reproductive rights. So, to sum: Tumblr’s young audience spent the year making GIFs of Daisy Ridley, indulging in the sweet life story of a caterpillar, drawing pokémon covered in flowers, photographing puppies covered in flowers, imagining that their favorite TV characters were in fact in love, looking at the Moon, and discussing a number of diverse progressive issues.
They had a nice year, far away from the rest of us. Bless them.