TikTok, YouTube, Google: This is what the SA internet did in 2021

As another year kicks off, it’s fair to assume that the World Wide Web will again have a significant hand in our experience of events in 2022. Gone are the days when the internet was almost an afterthought in our daily lives – today, and even more since much of our professional lives have moved online following the outbreak of the pandemic, the internet is a crucial part of our lived experience. Aside from using the web to stay up to date with current events and communicate with colleagues, friends and family, we also use the internet as a means of entertainment and escape.

All of these characteristics of the internet come into play when we take a look at how South Africans spent their time online in 2021.

The world’s biggest search engine, Google, released its annual trends at the end of last year, and the top search results paint a picture of Mzansi’s residents wanting to stay on top of global and local news events. Trending general searches in 2021 contain enquiries about sporting events, as well as searches for information about local news:

  •  Sassa status check
  •  Euro 2020
  •  Premier League
  •  Shona Ferguson
  • PSL
  • Pakistan vs South Africa
  •  Election results
  • Killer Kau
  •  DMX
  • Wimbledon

In terms of local newsmakers and celebrities that were the most popular among inquisitive South Africans, it comes as no surprise that former president Jacob Zuma takes the top spot, while other politicians (Carl Niehaus, Ace Magashule) also drew the attention. Local celebrities, musicians and rappers, including Prince Kaybee, Mpura, and Zola 7 were among the top searched-for local personalities, whilst sports stars Percy Tau and Tatjana Schoenmaker were also trending in 2021. When veteran news anchor Noxolo Grootboom retired, a spike in searches for her name made her one of the other trending local figures last year.

The video platform YouTube also provides interesting insight into what makes South Africans tick, and it’s abundantly clear that we have a wide range of interests. The most popular trending video on YouTube in South Africa last year was an animated comedy clip about chicken by Ramscomics, and this wasn’t the only humorous video among the YouTube clips that trended in 2021: Lasizwe Dambuza’s “Drink Or Tell the Truth” video with local celeb Zodwa Wabantu was also a hit in SA, as was one of MDM Sketch Comedy’s creations. Aside from looking for laughs on YouTube, South Africans also watched a video on how to whiten one’s teeth, along with another that gives women tips for dealing with toxic men.

2021 was perhaps the year that TikTok really took off in South Africa, and some local content creators are now really making a name for themselves on the social media platform. Wian “the magician” van den Berg is SA’s top TikTok creator with a massive following of no less than 15.7 million people (most of his followers are in the US). With 9.3 million followers on TikTok, Tevin Musara is the second most popular local content creator, while John-Marc van Wykis in third place with 8.2 million followers.

Even if it has only just begun, it almost goes without saying that 2022 is set to be another big year for internet searches and trends. If the previous two years are anything to go by, we’re sure to see a bunch of thought-provoking and entertaining things on the web this year.

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