Topics to Watch: April 2017

The latest edition of Topics to Watch has us embracing the more vibrant side of pop culture, examining subjects as diverse as music, cars and body art. But it’s not just about creative expression and celebration. As we look for the next big thing in creative and product development, we also see hints of self-reflection, with people examining what they stand for and where they come from.

Hammer drill
These are hand-held rotary drills that move with a rapid, hammering action. Great for tougher jobs, they’re already part of the professional handyman’s toolbox. As more people opt to “do-it-themselves,” thanks to how-tos moving from TV to the internet, tools like hammer drills have become more prevalent. This is helped by hammer drills, like the rest of technology, getting smaller and going cordless. Amateur handymen seem thrilled. We see them posting pictures to celebrate their families giving them hammer drills as presents.

History of the world
“Education entertainment” and “do-it-yourself biology” have been Topics to Watch in the past. This speaks to what happens when information becomes widely available to everyone, everywhere. People use forms of entertainment—short-form videos, animations, podcasts—to tell stories previously reserved for textbooks. And when learning gets fun, people get their geek on. Case in point, the rise in stories about the history of the world. Of note is the animated “The History of the World, I Guess,” which has been watched by millions since being posted in April.

Related topics: Educational entertainment, Do-it-yourself biology

House music

We’ve seen how the growth of satellite and internet radio has popularized niche and nostalgic electronic music like synthwave and downtempo in previous Topics to Watch. But now, one of the biggest genres of them all, is rising in conversation: house music, a type of dance music invented by club DJs and music producers in Chicago in the early 80s. While it’s changed in form and style throughout the years, house music is still popular today, made even more popular by the proliferation of highly publicized music festivals. Turns out, there’s nothing like a steady drum beat to unite the world.

Related topics: Downtempo, Synthwave

Prior Topics to Watch, like Reiki and Yin Yoga, have shown that people embrace all kinds of methods to heal their bodies. Now we’re seeing a new practice. People are turning to philosophy to heal the soul. There’s a rise in discussions of Immanuel Kant and the category of “being,” as well as explorations of truth and morality. This suggests that people are now not only broadcasting their beliefs, but also reflecting on them, perhaps to the same end of self-improvement and connection with others that we’ve seen with physical therapies.

Related topics: Yin yoga, Reiki

For years, there had been an American urban underground scene, popularized in hip hop and rap, of people customizing the wheels and rims of their cars. Trends have since changed across time and location. There have been shifts in sizes and styles, from vinyl-wrapped to candy paint to spinners. Through these evolutions, rims have remained a fixture of custom car culture. So what’s different? The pop culture that shines a light on rims. Originally, it was hip hop that mainstreamed this behavior. Today, it’s movies, most famously the blockbuster global franchise, The Fast and the Furious.

Sleeve tattoos
A sleeve tattoo is either a single tattoo or a collection of smaller tattoos, usually themed, that covers most or all of a person’s arm from shoulder to wrist. Typically ornate, they showcase both high art—we’ve even seen Van Gogh tattoos—and personal expression. While sleeve tattoos remain popular, what’s also becoming popular is highlighting how these tattoos are made. Pictures and time-lapse videos of people receiving their tattoos are thriving. Like hair removal and permanent make-up, this is another example of people proudly embracing not just the final result, but the steps taken to alter and beautify the body.

Related topics: Permanent makeup, Hair removal

Mobilizing for Summer

Summer is a season for people to connect with family and friends, stay active and feel good. And mobile has created opportunities to stay connected beyond the moments we share in person. On Facebook, we saw that 92% of Summer-related conversations in the US took place on mobile in 2016—that’s 12.38x more conversation on mobile than on desktop.

With mobile as our constant companion, it’s more important than ever to connect with people on the go. Check-in locations can offer a glimpse into the ways people stay active and engaged during the season.
Read more

Shifts for 2020: Blurring Boundaries

By 2020, more people will have mobile phones than running water or electricity at home.1

And for the first time in history, more people will be connected to the internet than not.1 Mobile will generate nearly half of US ecommerce sales2 and Millennials will make up half the global workforce3—but don’t look for them in customer service, given that 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human.4

A whole new world? Practically—and it’s just over 30 months away. Read more

The Power of the Platform: Pixels + Print

When looking for a fashion fix, a beauty how-to or fitness tips, people turn to both magazines and Instagram. But they seek a different payoff from pixels than from print. In a study Facebook commissioned Kantar Millward Brown to learn more about those differences, we found that 65% of people who use Instagram on a monthly basis and subscribe to magazines (dual users*), choose Instagram over magazines when looking for inspiration. When it comes to looking for detailed information, 57% choose magazines over Instagram.

Read more

Journeys of Connectivity: How People in Sub-Saharan Africa Come Online

Each month, across Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 95 million people access Facebook, with 97% on mobile.1 And as the number of people on Facebook in the region continues to grow, we wanted to better understand people’s journeys of connectivity.

Facebook IQ commissioned D3 Systems to conduct an in-person survey among a nationally representative sample of 6,089 people ages 18+ (along with in-depth interviews and ethnographies) across three of the most populous Sub-Saharan markets: Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Read more

Topics to Watch: March 2017

We love this month’s Topics to Watch, which exposes lesser known and taboo themes usually reserved for professionals, wonks and private conversations. In our search for the next big thing in creative and product development, we turn to the behaviors and conversations that have emerged as technology has advanced, cheapened and, in turn, grown widespread.

Adventure games

Adventure games are highly interactive, single player games focused on exploring and puzzle-solving. They lost relevance in recent years due to the rise of other genres like first-person shooters. But they have seen a comeback, spurred by well-publicized success stories of publishers raising crowd-funded capital, the proliferation of mobile gaming and narrative storylines falling out of cultural mega-hits like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. These last two trends have likely been the biggest drivers in their widespread adoption as their appeal grows across ages and gender.

Aerial photography

Photography has never been a stranger to Topics to Watch: we’ve reported on growing conversation across documentary photography and photomontages. These have been driven by the intersection of social media, visual arts and technology. To this last point, aerial photography owes its rise in popularity to the rise of unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as drones. Previously, only professionals used aerial photography in fields like real estate, surveying and architecture. Today, it’s in the hands of amateurs, fueling an appreciation of a new way to look at the world.

Display resolution

The screen battle is on. As people increasingly turn to devices for visual media—whether it be film, photos or even adventure games—technology must strive to keep up and outpace people’s expectations and the competition. Right now, this battle is being fought over display resolutions and processing speeds across mobile devices and TVs. As people expect screens to get smaller and flatter, more streaming and more complex gaming, we expect topics usually in the computer science and technology domain—like web hosting services and user experience—to continue to enter the mainstream.


Facebook recently reported that 2016 was the first year it saw more mobile conversions than desktop conversions for the entire Holiday Season. E-commerce is certainly not new—it’s one of the internet’s original killer apps. Today, e-commerce is not only reinventing how people buy, but also how businesses are being built. New dynamics have entered the marketplace: businesses that are direct-to-consumer, subscription-based services and expanding global platforms. The focus on e-commerce should not come as a surprise when people can order a mattress in a box!

Hair removal

Last month we saw hair transplantation. But this month we’re seeing the opposite: hair removal? These topics are two sides of the same coin: an obsession with bodily hair that traces as far back as ancient Egypt. So why now? For one, because the technology has shifted from yesteryear’s sea shell tweezers to today’s laser technology. But there’s more: today celebrities go without make-up, reality stars augment their bodies and insiders, like make-up artists, garner their own social media followings. The veil has been lifted on the lengths women go to beautify themselves—and previously taboo topics, like bodily hair, have started to surface.


Many see streetwear for more than the clothes—the quintessential hoodies, sneakers and t-shirts—they’re associated with. Those who create streetwear see it as a reflection of their locale (including disputed origins from California to New York) as well as the sub-cultures it often overlaps with (such as surfing, skateboarding or hip-hop). But perhaps streetwear’s defining characteristic is being produced and distributed outside of established fashion houses. Despite its humble origins, today streetwear has outsize influence on mainstream brands, which are embracing it as much as they embrace sportswear. Today, street fashion is taking its place next to high fashion.