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: