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20 pop culture trends from the 2010s to look back on

By Ching Yuen 3 January 2020

A decade has gone by again and the world is turning into something we have never seen before. Innovation and creativity are at an all-time high, with crazy viral internet trends and pop culture trends that start dominating lifestyles. Here is a tribute to the pop culture trends that came and went in the 2010s, as well as some that stayed (the good ones, we hope). Do you think there’s anything we should bring back in 2020?

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Internet challenges

Internet challenges were a thing throughout the decade, from people planking (lying face down and holding the body straight on unusual surfaces) back in 2010 to meaningful challenges like the ALS ice bucket challenge in 2014 that brought awareness to people suffering from motor neuron disease. Don’t forget away the ridiculous challenges like bottle flipping and the mannequin challenge (people freezing mid-action while a moving camera films them with the song Black Beatles by Rae Sremmurd playing in the background) in 2016, or the dangerous Kiki challenge in 2018 where people climb out of a moving car to dance to Drake’s In My Feelings song.

Dance moves

Similar to internet challenges, viral dance moves also took over the internet. Though it may seem like these moves have been around for a while, twerking (throwing or thrusting hips back or shaking buttocks often in a low squatting stance) and dabbing (dropping the head into the bent crook of a slanted, upwardly angled ar while raising the opposite arm out straight in a parallel direction) went viral since 2013, especially when a hip-hop beat comes on. Other moves include the Nae Nae (placing one arm in the air and swaying side to side) and flossing (swinging arms with clenched fists from the back of their body to the front on each side) from 2017–leggo!

Viral songs

A decade in music and song would probably have us writing 10 articles just to cover everything, so how about just a couple of throwbacks? Remember when Carly Rae Jepson gifted the world with Call Me Maybe in 2011 that made our teenage hearts explode, or Party Rock Anthem in the same year that got us pumping like crazy? Or Harlem Shake in 2012 that had everyone acting crazy when the beat dropped? Speaking of beat drops, does anyone remember What Does The Fox Say? from 2013? Those were good times. Oh, Let It Go from Frozen was also back in 2013—seems like just yesterday. Kpop also dominated the world through the past decade; hello, Gangnam Style and BTS.


The fashion industry is ever-changing and honestly, iconic looks come out every season. Some things that stood out for us more than others. First and foremost, Lady Gaga’s meat dress in 2010; not only was it immensely controversial, but it also reinforced Lady Gaga’s creative and often out-of-this-world image. Let’s not forget when Kanye West and Will.I.Am brought shutter shades into the spotlight from 2010–2011, or how Rihanna’s Met Gala look in 2015 broke the internet with her yellow robe. Streetwear-style (or Hypebeast-style) officially took over the world when luxury fashion house crossed over with Supreme and had every fashionista in the world lusting after it. Which, of course, conveniently leads nicely to the chunky sneakers trend in 2019, from good ol’ Balenciaga’s and LV to the Fila Disruptor—chunky enough to kill.

Conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories were off the charts for the past decade, but ones that took over the world were definitely notable. Like the Malaysian aeroplane MH370’s disappearance in 2014, prompting many theories about its disappearance since the bulk of the aircraft has yet to be found. Remember when we all the world was going to end in 2012? This 2012 phenomenon was a range of beliefs according to the Mayan Calendar that the world would end on 21 December 2012. There were various explanations as to why the calendar ran out of days, but I guess we’re ok since we are all here reading this article, right?


The past decade saw the frightening growth of technology, such as the death of CDs and the birth of online streaming with the help of Netflix, Hulu, and more. Since the iPhone’s launch in 2007, the rise of smartphones took over the globe across the decade, with sales surpassing feature phones and flip phones already in 2012. The first iPad came out in 2010, and we guess you already know the rest.


Selfies may have been around for a while in Asian cultures, but it was arguably popularised with the released of iPhone 4 and its front-facing camera that helped popularize the selfie internationally. In 2013, the word selfie was added to the Oxford English Dictionary and voila! Chaimsmokers released their hit song #SELFIE and we entered the world of duck lips, other ridiculous poses, selfie sticks, and filters. Never forget your filters if you looking for that fake perfect skin!

Mobile games

We just talked about smartphones, so mobile games are a must-have. Here’s a good old throwback to the viral mobile games that we downloaded. The good days of Fruit Ninja, when life was simple and all about cutting fruit. Things got a bit complicated when Flappy Bird took over the internet in 2014 but the creator took it down due to guilt of its addictive nature and overuse. Don’t worry, Pokémon Go in 2016 revived everyone’s childhood memories and took us all to our happy places

Things that went viral on the internet

The title is a bit ambiguous since everything on this list went viral on the internet, but here are some odd bots that we couldn’t fit in the categories yet. Like Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie saturated with celebrities in 2014, it became the selfies of selfies and was the most retweeted selfie ever!

Mukbang was another internet phenomenon that went viral, originating from South Korean in 2010, where broadcasters stream themselves eating large amounts of food live and entertain their audience while doing so.

Eventually, that lead to other viral trends such as ASMR videos in 2015 where broadcasters produce sounds that are meant to soothe you, such as cooking or the sound of bubbles popping.

Something more recent would be when the Storm Area 51 event on facebook went viral and people actually showed up. Now, we are moving onto the new decade with Baby Yoda taking over the internet!


The internet can be a somewhat deceptive concept, especially when you have people sharing confusing illusional videos that you will never know the answer to! Remember the debates that started across online communities about the picture of a dress that appeared to be blue-coloured for some but gold for others? Or the weird audio recording of the same word repeated but people hearing either Laurel or Yanny? The world sure is a confusing place!

Rise of the memes

The 2010s definitely saw the rise of the memes, defined by Wikipedia as a piece of media that combines image macros with a concept or catchphrase that is spread on the internet. Legendary memes include the stick icons from 9gag in 2010, the Nyan Cat from 2011, the Grumpy Cat in 2012, Doge memes in 2013 thanks to a certain Shiba Inu, Kermit the Frog emerged in 2014, Drake’s Hotline Bling in 2015 inspired memes, Confused Maths Lady and Harambe in 2016, Anonymous White Guy Blinking and Distracted Boyfriend in 2017, the Squinting Lady and Shocked Pikachu in 2018, and Explaining to Your Mum meme in 2019.

Wrong announcements

Everyone wants to forget their embarrassing moments, but some will just have to live knowing their embarrassing moments are going down in history. Back in 2014, Idina Menzel performed Let It Go at the 86th Academy Award Ceremony right after announcer John Travolta introduced her with the name Adel Dazeem! In the 2017 Oscars, the winner for best picture was mistakenly announced as La La Land when it was actually Moonlight! There are various explanations as to how the wrong envelope ended up at the announcer's hands but all was already done and said.

TV shows

We mentioned how streaming is how the majority of the general public watch their shows, and it's thanks to these shows that lasted throughout the decade which brought about this trend. Game of Thrones aired their first episode in 2011 and after a rollercoaster of events like the Red Wedding, Jon Snow's death and more, it finally ended in 2019. Orange Is The New Black, House of Cards, and Rupaul’s Drag Race are also some of the major names in tv shows and dramas that made their mark throughout the decade.


In the cinematic world, franchised films made their mark across the decade. Everyone will always remember the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which started with Iron Man in 2008 and led to The Avengers series, Captain America series, and much more. Star Wars also returned in 2015 after a decade long hiatus with a female lead in Episode VII, The Force Awakens. It also wrapped up the decade by releasing the final film of the trilogy just at the end of 2019. This decade also saw the trend of adapting young adult novels into films series, such as the Twilight series in 2008, The Hunger Games in 2012, The Maze Runner in 2014, and much more.

Female leads in pop culture

The past decade was a definite rise in female lead roles in pop culture—we’re talking films, adaptations and animation. We have the female leads in Hunger Games in 2012 and the Divergent franchise showing strong female roles, as well as DC’s first female superhero film Wonder Woman in 2017 and Marvel’s first female superhero film Captain Marvel in 2019. In 2016, Disney also released its most unapologetically feminist princess Moana that prompted a new age of modern princess to inspire little girls around the world.

Diversity fit

The world embraced diversity as it has never before, with countries around the worlds starting to legalise same-sex marriages across the decade, most notable being the US declaring same-sex marriage legal in 2015. In the same year, notable figure Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, came out as a trans woman and created a huge buzz on the internet especially taking into account the relationship with the Kardashian clan. Trans-gender actors also took the screen with big roles such as Laverne Cox in Orange Is The New Black and Jamie Clayton in Sense.

Unions in the spotlight

Life is full of happy unions and unfortunate separations and the past decade has given us our fill of marriages and divorces in the spotlight. Two royal weddings were held respectively in 2011 and 2018 with Prince William, Duke of Cambridge with Catherine Middleton and later his younger brother Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex with Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. We also had Kim K tying to knot with Kanye West in 2014 as well as Justin Bieber settling down with Hailey Baldwin in 2018. On the other hand, there were unfortunate separations that were put in the spotlight as well, such as Katie Holmes split with Tom Cruise in 2012, Brad Pitt’s split with Angelina Jolie in 2016, and Miley Cyrus’s divorce with Liam Hemsworth in 2019.

Viral apps

Instagram feels like it has been around forever, but did it occur to you that it just launched in 2010? It definitely outlasted other mobile apps that swept the internet, such as the Vine app which was launched in 2013 and helped thousands of videos become viral become closing down in 2016. Don't forget about the days when Snapchat was everything, or how, now known as Tik Tok, prompted the new era of viral videos, ridiculous pranks and awesome dance moves!

Scientific breakthroughs from the past decade

Throughout the decade, we started seeing the cosmos like never before. We took the first picture of Pluto in 2015 and the first picture of a black hole in 2019. Scientists also changed the course of diseases, such as reducing the spread of HIV in 2011, and working on an Ebola vaccine in 2015 and having it approved in 2019. In 2016, the first three-parent baby was produced, using the father’s sperm, mother’s cell nucleus, and third donor’s egg with the nucleus removed. The first full-body colour reconstruction for a dinosaur was published in 2010. In the world around us, we also started seeing animal’s unexpected sides, such as the hawksbill sea turtles being the first reptile with bio fluorescence recorded in their shells.

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Having lived in Hong Kong, Beijing, and London sure is a fun fact whenever people try to guess Ching’s accent. She loves switching between all these language channels and her “mother tongue” is just determined by how many drinks she’s had for the night! She loves movies, travelling, and exploring cities, from hidden alleys to gourmet dining, so feel free to hit her up if you need any suggestions for dinner!