Considering we live a lot of our lives online, looking at the Internet zeitgeist provides an accurate and interesting look into the year's most salient topics. Throughout the year we Facebook, Tweet and Google what matters at that moment. Those sites archive those behaviors and at the year's end they give us a good idea of what mattered most to us, as expressed via Retweets, Likes and searches.
Facebook, Google and Twitter all release different categories of data. To most accurately compare 2011's most popular memes, we looked at Google's "Zeitgest," which it defines as the "fastest rising searches" -- not the most often searched; Twitter's list of top Tweets per second; and Facebook's top memes (status update mentions).
These were the most popular topics on each site in 2011.
The site didn't order these on a pretty chart, but here's how the list shakes out:
1. MTV Video Music Awards
2. Troy Davis executed
3. End of FIFA Women's World Cup
4. Brazil eliminated from the Copa America
5. Steve Jobs resigns
6. BET Awards
7. UEFA Champions League
8. Steve Jobs passes away
9. Japanese earthquake and tsunami
10. East Coast earthquake
11. Raid on Osama bin Laden
12. Home Run Derby
14. Royal Wedding
If we learn anything from these lists it's that people want to share news. Most of the events that fall on share things sites, Twitter and Facebook, are about news events. And when we look at the overlap, many of the year's talked about news events pop up: the Death of Osama Bin Laden, the Royal Wedding, and the Superbowl. Three big news events that the media talked about. A lot. Google doesn't have a sharing component, or at least not one that people use yet. But with Google+ coming up as the number 2 most searched term, people clearly have an interest in the social side of sharing.
The data also shows the dichotomy between share and search. People share important events. People search for knowledge. Like, about the non-existent iPhone 5, the new Battlefield 3, or the Pad 2.
As you can see, there was only one topic that appeared across all sites: Steve Jobs. His death showed up in search, tweets and facebook posts. Just like on the Internet, in real life, the world mourned Jobs's passing, creating memorials, visiting Apple stores, and buying up his biography.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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