2020 was full of twists, turns, and changes. With the ups and downs of the past year came modifications to social media platforms across the board. Major political events, social uprisings, and the COVID-19 pandemic drove innovation throughout Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. As we look back at the changes made to these social media sites in 2020, we have a better understanding of how significant events can influence the needs of users, and thus, cause subsequent changes to social media platforms. 

Twitter

Twitter had many updates and changes throughout 2020. One of the most significant changes made to Twitter arrived in November. Fleets! Twitter introduced its form of “stories” and promoted it by illustrating to users that they could now post Tweets for a 24 hour period only. Their reasoning behind this was that many people enjoy sharing Tweets but do not want them reposted to their profiles. Fleets is a way to have a temporary repost. In social media postings, it can be overwhelming when users rack up likes and retweets, so, according to Twitter, Fleets was made to take some pressure off the users. 

In August of 2020, Twitter introduced an update relating to their “reply” function. The new update allowed users to choose who is allowed to reply to their Tweets with a drop down option in the Tweet creation segment. Twitter’s reasoning for this was to create a safer place that is less susceptible to spam and trolls. 

When the COVID pandemic was picking up steam in March, Twitter created a “COVID-19 Events” page to keep the public up to date on the latest news surrounding the virus. Verifications were allocated to health officials to ensure correct information about Coronavirus was circulating and incorrect information was minimized. 

Since the start of 2021, there have been a few more updates made to Twitter. The uprising at the capitol on January 6th led to accounts being suspended on the grounds of violence. To minimize further violence, select Tweets were blocked as well. 

Facebook 

At the beginning of 2020, Facebook updated their platform so that users could choose to opt-out of seeing political ads within their Ad Preferences. In February, when Facebook was at odds with users over privacy issues, they installed a “clear history” tool for users to see the information/data Facebook is collecting from users’ internet activity. This tool’s goal was to increase users’ trust in Facebook again after the infamous scandal with Cambridge Analytica

Facebook also had a new redesign in 2020, which was the fifth redesign in Facebook history. This redesign included an interface makeover, a new aesthetics design, and a new chat option. 

With new gamer app competition sprouting up on Twitch and Youtube, Facebook switched their streaming services in June to allow fans to support gamers with payments. Another big update that came to Facebook watch was a new “Music” button where music videos are posted, and popular artists premier their videos. Creativity and further streaming have been boosted across Facebook as a result. 

With a shining light on social movements in 2020, Facebook donated $100 million in grants for black-owned businesses and created a business page for “diverse-owned business.” This lets users identify and promote their page as a specific minority-owned business. 

Furthermore, as of January 2021, Facebook’s social justice efforts have evolved into the creation of a new civil rights organization to minimize racial violence and hatred across the platform. 

Instagram

One of Instagram’s most significant updates in 2020 was the introduction of Reels–a Tiktok style video streaming section of the app. When Tiktok was in hot water with former president Trump over national security concerns, Instagram seized the opportunity to deliver a similar platform to users. In creating this update, the Reels section of Instagram replaced the explore tab altogether. 

There were other user interface updates with Instagram in 2020 too. In November, the app had an interface redesign with the introduction of the ‘shop’ tab. Users were up in arms at first with the new layout of the app that has had a consistent interface for years. Instagram moved the ‘activity’ and camera/post tab and replaced them with the “shop” and Reels tabs. 

Instagram also had multiple initiatives to end election and COVID misinformation by adding fact check links to posts with keywords and hashtags relating to the events. 

TikTok

An app that gained major traction in 2020 was TikTok. Though they faced major backlash throughout the year with cybersecurity issues, the app had no problems with popularity. In February of 2020, an update was applied that helped instill TikTok’s “You’re in Control” series where videos would pop up telling users they have been on the app too long. 

The company also released a “Family Safety Mode” that allowed parents the ability to link to their child’s account to cement parental controls. This way, parents have access to their children’s DM’s and screen time. 

While there were fewer updates to TikTok’s interface overall, the updates that were put in place protected users further. 

The four social media platforms made major changes during 2020 and are already gearing up other updates for this year. These apps’ adjustments are furthering user interaction and engagement while also leading beneficial initiatives for social movements.