What is #TrendingTopic?

Posted by Ashton Weis

I have been asked by several non-tweeters, “So, what does it mean when something’s “trending” on Twitter? I just don’t understand what that is or how I use my hash tags.”

This is a difficult question to answer, mostly because the answer isn’t a simple one. When I tweet, I use my hash tags liberally. For me, they have their own stigma and give tweets a topic or a general idea. Often hash tagged words are funny, witty, or clever. Not all Twitter users think of trending topics in the same way.

Here is an example of how I use my hash tags.

Creating a hash tag involves quite a process. Mediaite describes it on their website.

Trends can be a world event, a funny saying, spam, supporting a brand or fan-based support for celebrities. Trending topics are created simply by them being used a lot by Tweeters.

This is a snapshot of my twitter trending topics on Feb. 19th. It shows how different the topics can be.

In the past, trending topics have been under some scrutiny. Twitter has had to censor some inappropriate trending topics. The trend #thatsafrican raised some big issues about whether or not Twitter should monitor trending topics. Some users were upset that Twitter had removed a trending topic, but others were upset that such a racist topic had been allowed to “trend” in the first place.

Twitter also removed the trending topic: #thingsdarkiessay, because the users caused a stir about it. It was originally started as a joke, but humor can be hard to convey across continents and 140 characters.

But the real question is: should Twitter be in charge of censoring its trending topics? Are they to be the gatekeepers of what people are putting out there? Or should they let people have free reign over what becomes a trending topic?

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2 responses to “What is #TrendingTopic?

  1. While I would love for everything on my Twitter feed to be 100% intelligent/funny/kind/etc. all the time, that is not always the case. On the internet, often shielded by anonymity, people are comfortable being rude, offensive or simply mean. Comment sections everywhere are loaded with internet “trolls” who log in with the sole purpose of starting an argument. I cannot help but think that they need some regulation, especially when they are offending other users.
    YouTube and Facebook allow users to flag things as offensive and will occasionally take action to remove things. Twitter should be allowed to do the same. If users are expressing their discomfort with an offensive hash tag or trending topic, I think it should be removed for the benefit of the whole. I don’t think Twitter executives should go about deciding which trending topics should be allowed to trend (although they do have promoted trending topics), they should have the ability to remove the ones that are bothering other users.

    • I agree that users should be able to flag content that they find offensive, but how would you monitor that? I don’t really think that Twitter should remove things just when they cause a stir, they should let those online decide what they want or don’t want to see.

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