Just last night I was telling my mom how much I love Google Hot Trends. I get the hourly alerts via RSS and am amazed by the insight and grounding it gives me. It’s easy to fall into our world of nerds and forget there are millions of people watching Florida quarterback and wondering why he had Hebrews 12:1-2 painted on his eye black.
Anyway, Danah Boyd makes a similar point in her excellent essay Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media:
Ironically, the one place where I’m finding people are being forced to think outside their box is the Trending Topics on Twitter. Consider a topic that trended two weeks ago: #thingsdarkiessay. Started in South Africa, this topic is fundamentally about language and cultural diversity but, when read in a U.S.-context, it reads as fundamentally racist. Boy did this blow up, forcing a lot of folks to think about language and cultural differences. Why? Because Trending Topics brings a topic that gained traction in a segment of the network to broader awareness. Unfortunately, it’s hard to actually get meaningful dialogue going even if trending topics trigger reactions.