July 10, 2012

Twitter is the New Black: Trending Topics as Sources of Information

Trendy news

Reflecting back on my past year, I realize, sadly, that aside from the occasional frantic text from my mother, Twitter has been my main source of information regarding every sports victory and celebrity death, divorce and coming out. If Obama’s health care reform passing wasn’t on my tab of United States trends and mentioned by every single person I follow, I would have remained in the dark for an embarrassingly extended period of time. Twitter trending topics, while sometimes used as more of a game like #UnansweredHipHopQuestions, #MentionSomeoneBeautiful and #ImThatGirlfriend, are often indicators of the latest news, such as the birth of Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick’s newborn and the death of beloved filmmaker Nora Ephron. Thanks to trending topics and Tailored Trends, Twitter can give you information and the latest news according to your interests while you again attempt to get retweeted by Lady Gaga.

Screen Shot 2012-07-10 at 5.22.00 PM

Trend lightly

Twitter trends cover a wide range of topics and are used in different ways. Whether you are interested in how people feel about the latest Wimbledon champion, or if you are bored and just looking for something to tweet, trends provide the necessary information to do just that. For your convenience, the trends feed is located in the lower left corner of your Twitter homepage right under suggestions of who to follow. The best part about trends is the user’s individual ability to choose which ones they are exposed to. There is the worldwide option as well as individual countries and states. You can change these freely depending on the area you would like insight into at that particular moment. If you are like me and like to get news from these constantly updated keywords, you’ll be interested to know the latest buzz under United States trends includes the unfortunate passing of Marty star Ernest Borgnine, Skip Bayless and his comments about Tony Romo, the return of “Bad Girls Club,” and Michael Fassbender’s upcoming role in an “Assassin’s Creed” movie.

Screen Shot 2012-07-10 at 5.27.35 PM

Tailored Trends and what it means if you have them

Tailored Trends are adapted to each individual based on their interests, location and whom they follow. You can enable these, as you please, just like location-based trends.

Screen Shot 2012-07-10 at 5.29.47 PM

These trends, while possibly more relatable to users, give the false impression that your interests are shared by a wide range of people, when in reality you could be one of a very small group that actually cares about whatever it is that could possibly be newsworthy about Sienna Miller. Mashable discusses this drawback in their “Tailored Trends Ruining Twitter” post, while Twitter maintains that the purpose of Tailored Trends is to better show “emerging trends that matter to you.” I can’t say that Twitter’s efforts have been exactly accurate though, since “el 99%” is listed as one of my Tailored Trends. I wonder how this trend could possibly be relevant to me, an American 19-year-old college student who has minimal financial responsibility at present. I agree with the author that Tailored Trends provide a small range of information and that turning them off allows for a more accurate and open-minded depiction of the latest news. At the same time, however, others enjoy having their trends filtered and prefer not to be bothered with the general ones that do not directly relate to them.

One final thing to keep in mind about trends is that as fun and informative as they can be, they are based on what is being discussed by the majority of users on Twitter, and a lot are only trending because of popular opinion, rather than fact. This caveat, however, is not going to stop me from finding out who Justin Johnson is and why he suddenly popped up on my list of trends. Happy trend-setting!

Screen Shot 2012 07 10 at 5.33.44 PM

Popular recent Trends

Ernest Borgnine
Penelope Scotland Disick
Tom Cruise
R.I.P. Whitney Houston
Heath Care
Andy Griffith
Windows 8
Nora Ephron
Bracket Time
Steve Jobs
Joe Paterno
#notguilty (Casey Anthony)
Happy Canada Day
Up All Night Tour
Ray Bradbury
Happy Tomlinson Tuesday (Louis Tomlinson- One Direction)
25 Million Monsters
Justin and Selena
iOS 5.1
Black Friday
Invisible Children
Kim Jong
End Piracy
Etta James
Happy Australia Day
Demi Moore
The Devil Inside
Blue Ivy
Nikon D4
Happy Birthday Bob Marley
Jeremy Lin
Photoshop CS6
Ron Burgundy (in response to “Anchorman 2” announcement)