Facebook’s Data Team put the list together, and it’s a little more sophisticated than other trend lists you’ve probably seen. Facebook’s calling it Memology–a map of the emerging memes of the year. The data was pulled from U.S. users status updates for the whole year, with an algorithm trawling for phrases of between one and four words, looking for bursts of interest in new phrases an comparing the data with 2008’s results. The top ten memes are shown in the table above.
Straight off the bat there’s an ironic surprise sitting at number ten: Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are busily engaged in a pitched battle to be the one true measure of what the World is talking about in real time, so it’s fab to see Facebookers talking about Twitter so much. Talking about this, Facebook can’t resist slipping in a subtle dig: “April showed a peak of activity and momentum, though mentions of the word “Twitter” decreased over the past few months.”
The “Celebrity Deaths” meme isn’t much of a surprise, given the big-name stars who’ve departed this mortal coil in 2009. Facebook notes that while the fuss about Michael Jackson resulted in the biggest peak of keyword frequency for any event this year, the attention faded away very quickly. After a week, statuses were mentioning Jackson about as much as before his death. Facebook’s diverse user base is also reflected in the fact that when Patrick Swayze died, the peak of status updates mentioning the sad news was about the same (two thirds) as when Jackson died.
The rest of the list is pretty unsurprising: Since Facebook is all about self-expression, and relationships between people, the fact that “Mom,” “Dad,” “kids” and “I” were frequently used is a no-brainer. Sports and current affairs like H1N1 and the health-care debate were big news too. Lady Gaga’s presence on the list is a slight surprise, but the star has really forcibly stolen the limelight, and appeals to Facebook’s younger demographic. “Yard,” however, has Facebook stumped–is this an emergent slang phrase?
And then there’s the “FML” graph. This charts yearly usage of the three letter acronym which is a digital expression of, ahem, general blueness (in a not-safe-for-work lingo)…and it’s amazing. The May weather and exams seem to have sparked a peak in depressed status updates, along with the return to school and the end of Summer in September. The use of FML on a day-to-day basis also peaks on Monday and Tuesday–but that’s totally understandable, and is a phenomenon long since perfectly summed up by Garfield.
Having trawled through Facebook’s data, here’s a look back at Twitter’s and YouTube’s trends for this year:
- January: inauguration
- February: christian bale
- March: the climb
- April: susan boyle
- May: pacquiao vs hatton
- June: michael jackson thriller
- July: michael jackson
- August: usain bolt
- September: kanye west
- October: paranormal activity
- November: bad romance
- December: tiger woods
The differences from Facebook are striking aren’t they? Lady Gaga or Patrick Swayze don’t get a nod on Twitter or YouTube–which is odd, given the video-friendly nature of Gaga and the news-breaking nature of Twitter for Swayze [Note: Yes, i get it now. November in YouTube was Lady Gaga month. My bad. Or possibly: My good, if you don’t like her either.]. It also looks like Facebookers are more religious than Twitterers or YouTubers, which is possibly due to the fact that so many adults use Facebook over the other two.
Of course the daddy of trend maps for 2009 is going to be Google’s year-end popular search phrase list, since Google is the tool most people use to find out the good stuff online. We can’t guess at the order of the list, of course, but we can have a stab at predicting some of the members, given the data from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Michael Jackson and H1N1 will be in the top three, along with Obama, I suspect. Your guesses in the comments…