Over the next month, search engines and social networks from Google to Twitter will reveal their year-end lists of data about what we were all tweeting, googling, and watching in 2016. Instagram is kicking things off today with a boatload of info about the year's most liked posts, most geotagged locations, and just about every other data set you can possibly imagine. But our favorite is, by far, the news that the most used hashtag of the year was — drumroll, please — #love. Disclaimer: It can be easy to make sweeping generalizations from year-in-review roundups, and it's important to remember that they are neither scientific nor necessarily representative of the whole population. Plenty of people skip hashtags altogether and those that do use them may only use certain popular ones in the hopes of getting more likes and followers. That being said, this year's most popular hashtag gives me reason to feel cautiously optimistic. I say cautiously because if you search #love on Instagram, you'll see that it isn't all photos of friends spending time together or families reconnecting. There are plenty of brand-sponsored posts promoting new watches and shoes and screenshots of high scores on video games. Those are very different kinds of #love — and many of those snapshots also feature the second most popular hashtag of the year, #instagood. But if you keep scrolling, you'll also see photos of couples, families, and friends of all genders, ages, and nationalities. You'll see memes that will make you laugh and heart-shaped snacks that you, too, would probably love to eat. And best of all, as you keep refreshing the page, new photos of #love will continue to pop up, from the couple that's visiting the Eiffel Tower for the first time to the dad who's seeing his 2-year-old after being away on a long work trip. Our favorite posts showing #love include: A sweet, elderly couple in Berlin.
An odd couple in the animal kingdom.
A pair jumping for love.
And a family celebration in Georgia.
At the risk of sounding cheesy and sentimental, let me remind you that 2016 has not been the happiest year for the internet in general. Fake news, polarizing election tweets, and online harassment have been more present than ever. So I hope you'll forgive me as I take a moment to celebrate the fact that the most popular hashtag isn't #hate, #stupid, or #racist. It's #love. I'm going to cling to that fact as we head into 2017. Because if love really is all around, it's important that we show it on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook in addition to real life.