Twitter allows users to see “topics” about people, bands, films, anything at all in actual fact, are most Tweeted about at any given time. You can decide to see what is “trending” world wide or narrow the search closer to home by selecting a countries top trends instead. According to Twitter’s official website, trends help people engage in news and important topics:
Twitter’s Trending Topics algorithm identifies topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis, to help people discover the “most breaking” news stories from across the world. We think that trending topics which capture the hottest emerging trends and topics of discussion on Twitter are the most interesting”.
In theory it should work. A big news story breaks, people tweet about it, it trends. This is great if the story in question is important, ground breaking and something the public can identify with. But as time goes on, Twitter trends seem to be more and more like spam.
First example, what need is there for “Adolf Hitler” and “Yo Momma” to be trending together in the UK? I’m very willing to listen to any legitimate reasons as to why Twitter thinks they are “the “most breaking” news stories from across the world”. They’re not. It’s people getting carried away with a stupid gimmick which gathers hype and attention so it spirals its way across Twitter like a virus and then it trends. Just like a spam email! Thus leading me to believe that trending on Twitter is, 9/10, just spammy, uninteresting hashtags.
I understand that it’s not a serious feature Twitter offer and yes, jokey ones can sometimes be funny to watch, but surely they can see a spam tag when it hits? Another reason why Hitler is maybe a less desirable trend is because very soon in the UK, it is ‘Remembrance Day’, a day when we have a minutes silence to remember those who died at war. Many of which, would have died in WWII. Hitler trending at all seems a little odd and inappropriate, purely for the reputation and image that is linked with him, but to trend at a time when remembering the impact of war is at the front of many peoples minds, it seems very untactful.
The New Graveyard
Talking of remembering the dead, Twitter Trends seems to now be a platform to mourn the dead these days and bring death into the public eye. Yes, sometimes it can be a sign of respect, particular if a celebrity has passed away, but only this week, #RIPStuart Walker was trending. Usually when someone has died and is trending, it is for a good cause. Take the example of Harry Moseley, an 11 year old boy who died of an inoperable brain tumour. That promotes public attention of cancer and maybe encourages people to give to charity. Albeit in a morbid way. But Stuart Walker didn’t die of cancer. He was tied to a lamp post and burnt alive just because he was gay. And this trended on Twitter. The people tweeting were arguing that it should have been national news all over the UK. Maybe it should have been, maybe there were reasons it wasn’t in the news. But to have it trend on Twitter just strikes me as being wrong. He may have had friends and family on Twitter who would see this and due to the manner of his death, may not appreciate that level of public gossip. And the fact that it is called a “trend” is in itself an insult to Stuart Walker and the manner of his death. Absolutely nothing about it should be associated with “trendy”. Yes, people were talking about it, but does that make it right for Twitter to endorse that sort of trend?
Key Take Away
The Internet offers freedom of speech, maybe there is no right or wrong answer and people have every right to talk about news and events including murder. But should the feelings of those left behind or directly involved with these events get taken into consideration? Just because people are talking about it for whatever reason, supportive or not, mean it should be considered trendy? Maybe Twitter themselves are missing an opportunity here. They have the ability to see what is popular and show it as a trend, why not make a market out of it and select topics which could promote business and make them money? Or even just be more selective? Trends could be so very powerful, a way to increase engagement, get more traffic, but the endless spam trends and the sometimes questionable ones, seem to be demeaning this excellent feature and that’s a shame. It could be one of the best Twitter features available if only it were used more appropriately.
Just after this post went live, “Robert Black” was trending on Twitter in the UK. Robert Black was a child serial killer convicted of killing young girls. Again, is this something that should be advertised and “trendy” on Twitter?
~Image source for graveyard: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixiepics2008