Over the course of the year, news anchors, politicians and even commercials harped on about the historic significance of 2020. Of course, none of their assertions were wrong. 2020 certainly has altered the direction of history. However, we have to wonder, what exactly will 2020 look like in the history books.
As a fun look into the future, here are some predictions of how historians of the future will look back at one of the darkest and most significant years that the world has faced.
A Year of Numbers
Undoubtedly, historians will trace the changes of 2020 based on numbers.
Given that the COVID-19 pandemic came with the rapid reporting capabilities of 21st century technology, the COVID-19 counts will offer a look at a global pandemic with greater detail than any widespread illnesses. Resources like the dashboard from the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center will allow people looking back at 2020 to trace long-term trends and even pinpoint superspreader events.
Other significant numbers that will make the history books will include the highest voter turnout counts in the United States, surges in unemployment claims as states progressed through phases of social distancing, and even the streaming counts for different popular television shows and podcasts, which can give future historians an indication of the media that Americans consumed while staying in.
The Social Media Pulse
For a long time, history books relied on newspaper clips and personal journals to get a sense of individual experiences during world-changing moments. However, in terms of tracking the societal pulse, 2020 will be analyzed with a new tool: social media. For the first time in history, trending hashtags, top-liked tweets and widely shared news stories indicate how the general public was interacting with global news moments.
For instance, people may look back at this calendar from Teneo that tracked the most popular hashtags in the United States each day over 2020. The calendar captures the trends like #pandemicbuying, a reference to the global rush to buy emergency goods, and #TheLastDance, a reference to the Michael Jordan documentary that brought joy to many sports-starved individuals.
The same hashtag tool also reflects the rise in social media activism that occurred in 2020. In 2020, the Civil Rights Movement accelerated across digital fronts, leading to hashtags like #runwithmaud and #BlackLivesMatter that allowed individuals to share their solidarity with anti-racist activism.
A Year of Acceleration
While it may be hard to imagine, 2020 is perhaps just the beginning of an even more historic and impactful decade. The accelerations in progress and the uncovering of problems in 2020 will likely bring about responsive new policies and developments across different fields.
For example, the COVID-19 vaccines developed by scientists in 2020 are the fastest vaccines ever developed. These vaccines and the processes behind them may force us to rethink how we can accelerate other forms of medicine development. Furthermore, discoveries made around coronaviruses may save future lives.
On the less optimistic side of things, 2020 put many silent crises in the world at center stage. For example, the gap between America’s wealthiest and poorest individuals bore its worst consequences as we watched Americans fight for the rights to keep their homes and put food on the table while others challenged the release of stimulus checks.
Hopefully, advancements will be made to support positive progress of 2020 and address the year’s challenges. In the history books, perhaps 2020 will just be the beginning of a chapter of great progress.
We don’t know what’s next for the world but we can all shape how 2020 is remembered by sharing our thoughts and experiences with those who will come after us. In sharing lessons of progress, discovery and silver linings, we can forge a positive future from a very challenging year.