12 Pop Culture Phenomenons That Were So 2012


From YOLO, to Gangnam, to Instagram, 2012 was ripe with pop culture fads and phenomena of all kinds. Here is a list of the top 12 trends that defined 2012. 

1. Call Me Maybe

I have nothing but good things to say about Carly Rae Jepsen and “Call Me Maybe.” Don't be a hater, this singable, danceable, ring-tone-able smash hit is about as good as pop songs get. It also spawned thousands upon thousands of parodies, lip-syncs, and covers, some of which are actually better than the original. My personal favorite is Jimmy Fallon and the Roots feat. Ms. Jepsen herself, seen here:

The hippest hipsters will tell you that Instagram was really launched in 2010, but it wasn't until 2012 that hashtags turned Instagram into Twitter for the illiterate. It wasn't long before the social media universe was flooded with sepia-toned desserts and grainy photos of streetlights from that time when the shadows were like totally playing off that bench in an awesome way. Remember kids: Just say no to megapixels.

2012 saw a massive spike in truly elaborate nail art. This is a classic in/out fad that has come and gone before, but thanks to Instagram and the new subreddit/r/lacqueristas, it has become a culture of its own.

As the most hyped film of 2012, The Hunger Games set box office records. Never mind the fact that those records stood for only a few months until the release of Marvel's The Avengers. Jennifer Lawrence made quite a splash as Katniss and revitalized Suzanne Collins' book series, much like HBO's Game of Thrones did for George R.R. Martin last year. 

Obviously, memes and gifs have been around since the early days of internet forums, but 2012 was a banner year for these highly shareable new media creations. Just about every other thing on this list has been meme-ified a thousand times over, as turning news items into memes was a major fad in 2012. Whether it was Mckayla Maroney's unimpressed mug, or Mitt Romney infamous, “Binders full of women,” the memes were flowing all year 'round. 


A book that actually managed to become famous before the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey was flying off the mostly virtual shelves in 2012. Though many dismiss it as being only a few shades of grey away from straight up smut, a novel with these themes becoming a best-seller doesn't happen very often. Speculating about the cast of the inevitable movie has become a fad in it's own right.


“You Only Live Once” became the motto of party people everywhere in 2012. Love it or hate it, you know you've said it at least once this year. Personally, I think only living once is a really good reason to not take risks, but maybe that's just me.

Thanks entirely to The Avengers, Shawarma was an overnight sensation last summer. If you stuck around until after the credits, you were treated to a brief scene of The Avengers enjoying (or not particularly enjoying) some Shawarma after defeating Loki. Tell me you didn't go try some for yourself later that week.

The 2012 London Olympic Games managed to hold the world's attention with the help of Usain Bolt, Oscar Pistorius, and Missy Franklin. Naturally, Americans forgot about them almost as soon as they were over thanks to the impending election, but at least we got to laugh at Ryan Lochte and cheer for Gabby Douglas.

This documentary made by Jason Russell (who later lost his mind one sunny California day), was one of the most shared videos in the history of Facebook. Suddenly, everyone and their grandmothers were learning about the atrocities half a world away, and the Invisible Children Fund was getting record donations.

Oddly enough, the alleged Mayan Apocalypse on 12/21/12 has become significantly less trendy as the date approaches. I'm not sure if we've all finally come to our senses, or if everyone is just secretly too nervous to even mention it. Crazy as this theory is, even the most sane among us will have to breathe a small sigh of relief on the 22nd. You never know, right?

Psy's Gangnam Style was my favorite music/viral video of 2012, perhaps even entering the conversation for greatest of all time. The beat is truly infectious, and Psy's trademark dance moves are easily worthy of a spot in the pantheon next to the Macarena and the MC Hammer Dance.