Facebook has just released its top 40 most shared articles on Facebook in 2011, and the top three most shared articles – about the Japanese Tsunami, parents vs teachers and star signs – provide an intriguing glimpse into the Facebook user’s mind. What’s more, there are some interesting omissions from the top 40. Nothing on the London riots. Nada on the Arab Spring. Zippo on the Conrad Murray trial. Odd. Of course, it could be because these are the top 40 articles, rather than the top 40 most discussed topics. Maybe people that are passionate about the Hacking Inquiry are reading and sharing links from too many different places.
Damn it, can’t they just get it off CNN or the Huffington Post like all of these people did?
Looking at the articles and shoving them into categories like the good little half-Virgo that I am, one can perceive certain trends. Yes, one of the most serious events of the year was the most shared news story, but which type of story was shared the most?
Well, it seems that articles about parenting and child development issues featured most frequently in the top 40 (20%). From slightly whacky stories such as the one about the Canadian couple who decided to keep their babies gender a secret, to articles discussing why Chinese mothers are superior (the WSJ article had 8820 comments, 41,000 tweets and 370,957 Facebook Likes).
15 per cent of the stories shared were articles written about major debates, such as the man who robbed a bank so that he could get healthcare in prison, and what impact President’s Bush and Obama have had on the US deficit.
At 10 per cent, the third most popular sharing trend isn’t news at all, but sometimes we all need to see a video of a father and daughter dancing at her wedding or a video of toddler twins having a conversation (and frankly making much more sense than most of the guests on Newsnight).
Stories shared about the death of celebrities are featured just as much in the top 40 as the viral videos with most of the sharing being about Steve Jobs (the CNN article received 2276 comments).
Around 8 per cent of shared stories were about the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami. But 8 per cent were also about pets (and heroic hounds), the reassuring fact that we have not all just changed star sign (what would I blame my faults on then?!), relationship issues and random trivia like giant crocodiles.
Only 5 per cent of the top 40 most shared stories were about two of 2011’s hot issues – population and job hunting. But perhaps people are turning to LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ for their job search related content?
So, what does all this tell us, if it tells us anything at all? Well, it reinforces the fact that on the whole people use Facebook for personal sharing and relationship building, rather than professional development and networking. The top 40 most shared stories list isn’t dominated by articles on the Arab Spring, the EU bail out crisis, public sector strikes in the UK or politicians’ love lives. It’s dominated by stories about people, and what interests them – about how major issues impact the lives of individuals.