The Twitter blog has this list:
- Gulf Oil Spill
- FIFA World Cup
- Haiti Earthquake
- Apple iPad
- Google Android
- Justin Bieber
- Harry Potter & the Deatly Hallows
- Pulpo Paul
A list like this is nice but what does it actually say? On the Twitter blog they say it like this: "These Trends indicate the things that are most meaningful in our lives." As I have had an eventful year with a few pretty dramatic twists and turns, I feel compelled to add a little nuance to this statement because I am not the only one who spends a lot of time on Twitter and has had a tough year. Compared to the death of my father in law, the Vuvuzela is but a minor irritant. And yet, the death of my father in law is not among the trending topics.
Twitter is a filter. Especially when you try to discover trends. Because only that which a lot of people Twitter about passes through that trend filter. The personal aspect does not come into it while the personal aspect is hugely important to the success of Twitter. So only the hugely important issues on a global scale pass through the filter? That makes Justin Bieber of huge importance to human society according to this list - yet I somehow doubt that. So that's not it either.
No, a list like this only reflects what a lot of people Twitter about. No more, no less. It indicates what Twitter is used for by the masses. It is a (technology) news ticker, it is a sports cantina, it is an entertainment news channel. What this list does not indicate and can't indicate is the margins of Twitter use where, marginal though it is much of it's worth is hidden. How we sometimes send each other a supporting tweet in dark times. How help-desks learn to use Twitter to better assist their customers. How we send questions into the time line and get answers from total strangers. In short: Twitter is so much more than what this list of trends shows. I hope twitter.com will remember that in 2011. Trending topics are all well and good but the real value of Twitter for most people is to be found in the shadow of all that trendy excitement.
Oh, and who the hell is Pulpo Paul anyway? #missedatrend