It used to be that people complained that New York and Hollywood were setting the cultural agenda.
But now it's the Silicon Valley search and social media companies that seem to dictate what's hot and what's not. Not, however, through direct creation of content. Rather, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and Twitter function as tools to find and express what masses of people are interested in. Thus, the release of their year-end reports on top topics are treated as an illumination of what the culture had on its mind during the previous 12 months.
I'm finding this year's lists especially interesting, as Google, Yahoo!, Twitter, and Facebook all report that Marcel Proust's great literary masterwork, "In Search of Lost Time," was the No. 1 searched-for topic among all American web users this year.
Ha ha ha. Not really. But if you don't like the ascension of Justin Bieber as a topic of national conversation this year, what can you do? You either believe the data, or blame it on the fact that your 12-year-old knows how to use Twitter and you don't.
Here are the lists:
- chat roulette
- iphone 4
- world cup
- justin bieber
Personal Don't-Know-What-That-Is-Index: 3 out of 10
- BP Oil Spill
- World Cup
- Miley Cyrus
- Kim Kardashian
- Lady Gaga
- Justin Bieber
- American Idol
- Britney Spears
Personal Have-Never-Seen-That-Person-Perform-Index: 3 of 10
- HMU (stands for hit me up)
- World Cup
- iPad and iPhone 4
- Justin Bieber
- Games on Facebook
- Chilean miners
- lyrics of the international hit song "Airplanes"
- personal events due to occur in 2011
Personal Don't-Know-What-That-Is-Index: 2 out of 10
- Journalist Ann Curry: usairforce find a way to let Doctors without Borders planes land in Haiti.
- White House: Welcome to @twitter President Medvedev! RT @KremlinRussia_E: Hello everyone! I'm on Twitter, and this is my first tweet.
- P.R. woman Leigh Fazzina: I've had a serious injury and NEED Help! Can somone please call Winding Trails in Farmington, CT tell them I'm stuck bike crash in woods.
- Satirical BPGlobalPR: Catastrophe is a strong word, let's all agree to call it a whoopsie daisy.
- President of Ecuador: Declares state of emergency -- Gobierno declara estado de Excepción
- Clarence House: (Prince of Wales' private office) The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton - www.princeofwales.gov.uk
- SUN CEO Jonathan Schwartz: Today's my last day at Sun. I'll miss it. Seems only fitting to end on a haiku. Financial crisis/Stalled too many customers/CEO no more
- John M Foster, campaign manager to unseated Idaho Rep Walt Minnick: Congratulations to Raul Labrador on a hard-earned win, and best of luck as Idaho's next Congressman.
- Carles Puyol, member of World Cup winner Spain's team: Gran ambiente en la rua!!orgulloso de ver a tanta gente feliz.
- Conan O'Brien: I'm headed to your town on a half-assed comedy & music tour. I repeat: It's half-assed.
Personal Didn't-Hear-About-That-Index: 2 out of 10.