A pope, a pop star and the heart emoji: What was hot on Instagram this year

Posted at 11:29 AM, Dec 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-02 11:29:56-05

A Pope and a pop star ruled Instagram this year, but they weren’t the only popular figures on the social media platform. Olympic icons, caffeinated hashtags, Oscar-winning actors and smiley faced emojis also pleased the crowd. Here’s what else we learned cruising through Instagram’s 2016 list of the most popular hashtags, emojis, celebrities and moments:

1. Instagram newbies

Pope Francis makes history again. The pontiff isn’t just shaking things up at the Vatican, he also made his mark on social media, becoming the first Pope to join the popular image-sharing platform. More than 328,000 people poured out their photo love for the pontiff’s first post of him praying at the alter. The bishop of Rome – aka @franciscus – has amassed more than 3.4 million followers on the social network since joining.

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* EN: Even if the Holy Door closes, the true door of mercy which is the heart of Christ always remains open wide for us. * PT: Embora se feche a Porta Santa, continua sempre escancarada para nós a verdadeira porta da misericórdia que é o Coração de Cristo. * ES: Aunque se cierra la Puerta santa, permanece siempre abierta de par en par para nosotros la verdadera puerta de la misericordia, que es el Corazón de Cristo. * IT: Anche se si chiude la Porta santa, rimane sempre spalancata per noi la vera porta della misericordia, che è il Cuore di Cristo. * FR: Même si la Porte Sainte se ferme, la vraie porte de la miséricorde reste pour nous toujours grande ouverte, le Cœur du Christ. * DE: Auch wenn die Heilige Pforte geschlossen wird, steht uns die wahre Pforte der Barmherzigkeit, das Herz Christi, immer weit offen. #Jubileeofmercy, #JubileudaMisericórdia, #Jubileodelamisericordia, #JubilédelaMiséricorde, #Giubileodellamisericordia, #JubiläumderBarmherzigkeit

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Soccer legend Pele, singer Kanye West and actress Halle Berry were among 13 other celebrities to break new personal ground with their first photo posts on the site this year.

2. Celebrities who stole the Instagram spotlight

Fans can’t get enough of Selena Gomez! The 24-year-old American actress and singer has captured the spotlight as this year’s most popular Instagram celebrity. With more than 103 million followers – which is nearly the entire population of the Philippines – Gomez not only surpassed the Pope, she outperformed other famous contenders like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian.

The pop idol’s posts and videos also stole the show this year, not to mention she grew her follower base by 50 million – the most of any celebrity – even knocking out soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. He came in second with 42 million new followers this year.

3. Most-used Emoji

No smiling faces here, the award for the most commonly used emoji of the year goes to the little black heart. “Heart eyes” and “Joy face” round out the top three most used digital images on the photo-centric social media network site.

4. Feel the love

In the sea of Instagram’s hashtags, #love prevailed above all. Food lovers on the other hand had an insatiable appetite for #instafood, while #coffee was the number choice for beverage connoisseurs.

5. Star moments

Fans and musicians around the world showed an outpouring of #love this year while paying tribute to late music icons David Bowie and Prince with their favorite memory-filled moments.

Fashion model Iman rocked a sweater from Gucci’s Fall 2016 collection to honor her late husband David Bowie on Instagram at the 2016 Grammy Awards.

The 2016 Rio Games finished as “the most social Olympic Games in history and the most Instagrammed event ever measured.” Athletes, celebrities and sports fans captured their favorite Olympics moments and shared them with the world.

But this year’s Instagram gold medal moment goes to actor Leonardo DiCaprio after he won his first-ever Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards. With more than 1.2 million likes, Instagram calls it “the” moment of 2016.

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Last night’s win at the #Oscars was an incredible honor – but it was also an important opportunity to bring even more attention to #climatechange. Last year was the hottest in recorded history. Climate change is real, it is the most dire crisis our species has ever known, and it is happening right now. We must empower leaders who don’t speak for corporate interests but who speak for us, our children’s children and those whose voices cannot be heard. Take action now:

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