We are cruising toward the end of the calendar year and what a year it has been! ‘Tis the season for reflection, retrospectives, and performance reviews. Looking to the giants of Google’s Year in Search, Youtube’s Rewind, and Spotify Wrapped, this issue will cover Twitter, other Trending Topics, and some viral moments of joy from 2022.
One of the most prominent social media networks, it would be negligent to recap 2022 without touching on Twitter. Founded and launched in 2006, this “micro-blogging” social network began as an SMS-based service. However, in 2008, with the launch of the Trends feature, Twitter began to track and spotlight topics of intrigue. After 14 years of tweets, likes, and blue verified checks, it has since grown into a virtual ecosystem with 1.3 billion accounts and 238 million daily users. [Link source here] Fast forward to October 2022; a buyout, lawsuit, and acquisition later; Elon Musk emerged as Twitter’s new owner and CEO.
This tweet marked the beginning of some very tumultuous times at Twitter, all still ongoing. Inadvertently (and ironically), the developers at Twitter had coded and deployed its own stage for the dramatization of “Twitter’s downfall”(#goodbyeTwitter #RIPTwitter). Mass layoffs, haphazard product launches, and the return of @realDonaldTrump by way of a public poll.
Twitter itself is now in the spotlight and Trending nearly every day for several weeks; conversations about Twitter typically drift to discussing the future of the internet at large. Think pieces about Twitter’s demise inevitably projected and reflected other changes in Big Tech. Layoffs at Twitter are reflected by layoffs at Meta and Google, to only name a few. Conversations about bots and content moderation amplified the rise of AI and the need for Ethics teams everywhere. In the midst of ongoing changes at Twitter and elsewhere, this author greatly anticipates what will be left of this platform when the dust settles.
1/5 Sadies. Reports of Twitter’s death are greatly exaggerated. Still functional and still the go-to for what’s trending, Twitter is unlikely to truly perish. What is more likely to happen in the coming year is a continued shift in leadership, advertising and demographics on this platform—while new entrants look to move users onto new communication technologies.
Now that we’ve talked about where the trends are talked about, let’s review what was trending in 2022. A quick glimpse at Google’s Year in Search is a great refresher on what events have truly captured the attention of the internet.
In just a few generations, the "how?" of news consumption has changed dramatically. Noteworthy information no longer arrives daily by print. Instead, for many who have moved into the digital space, news comes in the form of push notifications, podcasts, or Tweet threads. Growing in popularity, consumption of news may even be served up in the form of an Instagram Reel or a Tiktok video.
On the first of January, every and all social media channels were (as is tradition) marked with #NewYearsResolutions but also with messages remarking on the passing of the beloved Betty White. February and early spring were filled with disjointed news covering both the invasion of Ukraine and the “Oscar Slap” heard around the world.
During the summer months, concerns about the recession rose and Bitcoin continued to fall in value. Crypto Winter was coming. And by fall, Queen Elizabeth’s passing and the subsequent period of mourning were reported on at length.
Reports of the political unrest in Iran began trending in September. In response to the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, demonstrations began in both physical and virtual spaces. Women objecting to the morality police cast off their head coverings and cut their hair. Videos and accounts of these protestors and their supporters spread across social media through hashtags, oftentimes paired with viral song snippets. Another notable use of social media for protest was objectors to China’s Zero-Covid policy. News of these protests ignited the organization of protests across the country and even in cities around the world.
These recounted topics were just a few of many that trended during 2022. This a gentle but important reminder that curation and prominence on any “What’s trending?” list is dictated by an algorithm powered by engagement. Neutral or positive pieces of news don’t always get the internet exposure that they may deserve. Thus, our ability to glean factual information can be tremendously skewed by those who want to quell or eradicate information and drive fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
3/5 Sadies - Not all trending topics are made equal. While this view is an important snapshot of what’s most “top of mind” for people at the moment, trending topics are not wholly representative of what’s most valuable or important to discuss.
Viral Moments of 2022
Personally curated for an optimal Sadie Scale score, this final topic will list (in no particular order) some interesting internet moments and tidbits from this past year. (Not to be mistaken with the NYT’s very similar list of “micro news”.)
Wednesday Addams - Because goth kids dancing should be celebrated.
AI Art and AI Writing - ChatGPT is both terrifying and exhilarating.
BeReal - Both the app and its memes.
Voter Turnout for U.S Midterm Elections - Thanks Gen Z!
FIFA World Cup - Pop songs becoming football anthems is amazing. “Muchachos, Ahora Nos Volvimos A Ilusionar”
5/5 Sadies - Because the internet is for memes and joy, just as much as it is for serious news.
On that positive note, we are closing out this issue of hype_cast along with 2022. Wishing you and yours, a lovely holiday season and a happy new year! We’ll see you in 2023 with more thoughts, trends, and all things internet!