By Stephen Slade Tien, via Wikimedia Commons

During my end-of-year cleanup, I found an article I printed out a couple of years ago: Using Twitter to Tap into the Mood of the Planet. It got me thinking. In 2013, how much was I in step with the mood of Twitter…ergo the mood of the planet?

Here’s what I found out as I started digging.

On Twitter, the most followed account was @katyperry (she surpassed @justinbieber this year…who “dethroned” @ladygaga a year earlier). I do not follow Ms. Perry (nor the others) but more than 49 million Americans do, including 57 people I follow.

What about retweets? Of the 500 MILLION tweets sent each day, the most RT’d tweet last year—tweeted over 430,000 times—was one by Lea Michele (@msleamichele) thanking fans for their support after her boyfriend and co-star Cory Monteith died. I never saw that tweet until I started this post. However, I did see (but not retweet) the #2 most retweeted tweet—one in December that confirmed the tragic death of actor Paul Walker. That tweet was retweeted only slightly fewer times than Lea Michele’s (about 400,000).

I was 0 for 3.  I felt sad and unsettled to find out that the most RT’d tweets in 2013 were sad ones…did this mean the mood of the planet was sad? I wondered if it was true for other social media—so of course I had to search.

When I referred to “#2” in the above paragraph, I wasn’t talking about hashtags… rather, I was using # in the old school sense, but it does lead me to hashtags. Let me tell you, I searched and searched (for longer than I care to admit) but could not find the top Twitter hashtag of the year. During my search, I did find the top hashtag for Instagram: #love. And in my Google search for the #1 Twitter hashtag, I was directed to the top Google search trends…where I found the Google top charts and a short video about them. It also listed top searches—broken down into categories. In the first category—“top trending,” the #1 search was again Paul Walker. (I admit I did add to that particular statistic since I did a search for his name after his untimely death.) #2 on that list was Boston Marathon Bombing, which I also searched, actually more than once (my son was living in Boston at the time).

So, for Google and Instagram, I’m 3 for 3. Although I’m not on Instagram, I’m all in favor of #love…and it’s a happier emotion than portrayed on Twitter…so I’m in step with the mood of the Instagrammians (?) on this one.

At that point in my research I realized I was only half in sync with the planet…so I wondered: what about other parts of the Internet scene? Was I in tune or not? That’s when I got a little more aggressive in my searching. What about apps for example? Turns out the #1 App Download of 2013 was Candy Crush. I’ve never played that game on my iPhone or on Facebook—so again I was out of step. What about shared events on Facebook? I’m also not in sync with the most popular event talked about on Facebook: The Superbowl. I never “talked” about it or “liked” a share about it nor did I even watch it!

I started to feel a little nonplussed. I must spend ten hours a week on social media—was I really so out of touch…so different…I mean some of these things I’d missed completely on each of the platforms. I continued to search, and what I found next re-instated my belief that I am in step with the world, at least more than I thought: the “annual list of words to be banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness” as kept for the past 39 years by Lake Superior State University. The top three words on that list are selfie, twerk, and hashtag…all of which I have heard of, do think are at least a bit overused, and yet I’ll admit here first that I have used 2 of the 3—online and even in casual speech—I’ll let you figure out which two. #embarrassing #ohno #YOLO

So what does this all mean? That I need to pay more attention? That I need to spend more time on social media? Or is it simply that I’m at least partially out of step with the planet—as proven by social media? Something I probably could’ve predicted based on the fact that often in my life I’ve been at least a little out of step with what’s hip…does anyone even say “what’s hip” anymore?

So…how’d you do with the mood of the planet? #comment #thanksforreading



  1. Lisa says:

    I am so completely out of touch that you might think I live on a completely different planet. But you know what, I’m okay with that.

    I owe you a letter. I kind of failed my December challenge. I do hope we can get together over tea sometimes and share our unique out-of-touched-ness (new word).

    • I would love a letter, Lisa (of course), but please don’t worry about it! I’m looking forward to getting a letter when you can and/or getting together for that cup of tea. As soon as the polar vortex finds a new home, we’ll start to schedule something for spring! Happy New Year!

  2. Cute post, Julia. Loved the tongue-in-cheek flavor of it (and I know which of the “no no” words you’ve used! Selfie! Hashtag! Please say it isn’t twerking. Spell check, by the way, still doesn’t recognize this word.) I think we’d all do better at interpreting and understanding the mood of the planet if we unplugged from social media and paid attention to the world around us (she says, as she’s reading blog posts). But, as you know, that’s my goal this year — to cut back and be present in the life in front of me.

    • So glad you enjoyed… and yes, guilty of tongue in cheek writing but (thankfully) not (often) using the word twerking. Only when I was trying to figure out what the heck it was! Yes, you make a good point about unplugging from social media — after all that really is how to get in touch with the real world. And it’s an admirable goal to cut back and be more present in the real REAL world!

  3. Shary says:

    I’ve failed miserably at twitter and I’m not even on instagram. How’s that for out of step? I do have a slight candy crush addiction, though, so I guess I’m still on the planet. We can’t all be everything, but your ideas definitely resonate with writers and readers. That’s what counts.

    • If candy crush is addictive I better not try it (I’ve been known to succumb to video games… collapse, bejeweled, and tetris spring to mind…). But it’s good to know you’re still on the planet 🙂 Isn’t it so amazing just how much is out there???

  4. Karen Wojcik Berner says:

    I really want to see the selfie of you twerking, Julia! Oh, wait. Maybe I guessed the wrong word combination…

  5. Ann Mc says:

    I am not a fan of people USING the word “hashtag” in their conversation! Ugh! Have you heard it?

    Girl: I’m going to wear pink to the prom amd I ordered you a pink bow tie and cumberbund
    Boy: ….whatever
    Girl: You never listen to what I have to say “hashtag ignoring me!”

    OIY! Dump the guy, get rid of the pink dress, go eat a burger because you’re WAY too skinny and have FUN at the prom instead if sitting around pouting and miserable with Mr Hashtag!

    • I’m afraid I’m guilty of using hashtag a time or two in conversation… (not like that, not about prom dresses anyway…) For some reason Mr. Hashtag makes me think of Mr. Potato… why? Must be dinner time, haha. Love the dialogue, Ann… yes, conversations should be, well, conversational!

  6. Julia – I learned more about social networking in your comprehensive post than I have elsewhere in a month of Sundays!

    By choice, we have not had a television in our home for almost 34 years. That in and of itself, gives you a clue that I’m probably not as in touch with the world as others who are plugged in — literally.

    I am, however, online a lot. As a nonfiction writer (whose literary agent preaches, “Keep building that writer’s platform!”), I have my fingers in a wide brushstroke of social media pies. However, not in the categories that you mentioned above (entertainment, television, Superbowl).

    Like you, I march to the beat of a different drummer. Not hip, cool, or dare I say it? Groovy. But I love my Zen-like, wabi-sabi lifestyle: http://tinyurl.com/kwt35yq

    • I’m so glad I was able to give you so much information, Laurie! It was a lot of fun to compile. I can well imagine not having a TV would help feel less in touch (we’ve been without cable most of the last three years). But being online, like you, I’d have suspected that I’d have caught on to many of the big stories. Not so, so I suppose like you I’m tuned into different categories! That makes so much sense to me…and it’s kind of cool that there is room for all types in the social network! So, I’ll join you on the not hip or groovy side, but I love the wabi-sabi lifestyle, too!

  7. Nina says:

    Such an interesting way of looking at social media–and the world! As in touch as I am WITH social media, I’m less in touch with this mood. I think my time on social media is purposely unplugged from those conversations–for better or worse. I don’t follow CNN or any news outlets. When I want news, I watch news or read the paper. I don’t want a constant influx of it on the my feeds.

    • It’s so interesting, Nina — like you I don’t follow any of the news organizations or news outlets either (and we don’t have cable or get a newspaper) so I often feel completely isolated except from what I get secondhand through social media networking. I suppose it does depend on who you follow, but since I follow almost 2000 people (even more with FB), I just surprised that I’m not exposed to more top pop culture through RTs or active sharing.

  8. So interesting, and I’m exactly like you. I’m usually right in the middle of being in step and out of step. I can often put my finger on the general mood of the country, and I too like general trends, but that’s usually only with in my age group. I’m old school — I read newspapers (the paper kind) and my brain explodes on Twitter. Even when younger, I was never very into pop trends.
    I’d much rather be in the middle. There are far too many interesting things to read and learn (and experience first-hand) in this world to spend too much time on just the popular ones.

    • I think you nailed my feelings Jess: that usually I can put my finger on the mood of the country (and I like that). I used to be only old school, too, but as my kids grew up I really wanted to be in the know about their generation too — I’ll be so curious if you’ll feel the same way. And yes, wayyy to many things to experience without spending too much time on just the popular.

  9. Love this post, Julia. I am completely and utterly out of step with the planet, but actually I’m glad because I think the main reason for this is that I have no interest in trends or celebrities, and as the majority of people seem to be obsessed with these things (your very well researched stats seem to confirm this) it reassures me to think that I’m on another planet… Oh well, no change there then 😉 xo

    • Glad I can reassure you, Abi! It does feel good to be out of step with the rest of everyone, and it certainly makes life more interesting. I just find it so really bizarre that if I spend so much time on social networking… how is it I can actually miss a lot of what’s going on? Just call me a citizen of Planet Oblivion!

  10. Cynthia Robertson says:

    Haha! Out of step with the ‘noisy people’, but that hardly matters. Great fun post, Julia.

  11. This cracked me up! I wouldn’t worry about it, Julia. I’m just about even with you on out-of-synch-ness. We like what we like, and we care about what we care about. There’s nothing wrong with that! I do have to disagree with the “useless” words, though. Selfie, for instance, is the simplest and most accurate way to describe the common action of taking a photo of oneself with your phone! How is that useless? Same with twerking. The move itself might be goofy, but it’s very popular right now and we do need a way to describe it. And hashtag, well… what else should we call it? Perhaps I’m being facetious, but I do get tired of people condemning others’ speech as if they have some high ground! Enjoyed your very fun post.

    • I’m so glad it cracked you up, Annie — makes the whole post well worth it because of course I did have fun researching and writing! That’s an interesting point about the useless words, especially because often these words that start as fads quickly end up as part of the dictionary. So who’s to say they’re overused? And as a writer, if a word is more descriptive than another, then it should be used! Good points.

  12. Kate Gerencer says:

    This is fun, interesting and thought-provoking, Julia! All those #1’s speak for some of the people. Who are they? How do they spend their time? Am I more in sync with the #250’s? If I used Twitter, that is? Wonder if that ranking exists? So much to ponder! Fun!

    • You and I both are more in sync with the #250s, Kate… but I always wonder if I’m on Twitter, how oblivious am I if I don’t actually *notice* the #1s?! It really is fun to ponder all this, I agree, and even more fun to talk about over a cup of New Year’s coffee! 🙂

  13. Like you, I’m completely out of touch with most of these things, and I’m so okay with that, because instead I feel tuned in to the topics and community I care about. Isn’t it all relative, anyways? One of my favorite examples is when I told my husband that if you asked most of the people on my Twitter feed what NBA stands for, they’d say National Book Awards. So maybe we’re not in tune with the general population…but it’s nice to find a group of people who see eye to eye when it comes to the things you love.

    • That is hilarious about the NBA….and yes, a good reminder that we hear and see the things most important to us — and it’s nice to be able to find a like-minded group of people online! Thanks, Natalia!

  14. I think about this kind of thing, too. One of the nicest and simultaneously most frustrating thing about the world right now is how fragmented everyone’s interests are, and this is so true of social media. If you are out of step with the larger culture, you can find people of like mind. But sometimes finding them can be hard, and then you find out your out of step with what “most” people are interested in. But it’s kind of nice that we can tune things out that don’t interest us much easier than we could 20 years ago! Great post, 🙂

    • Glad you liked the post and weighed in, Mahesh! Yes, it is equal parts nice and frustrating to have such an obvious fragmentation of interests — and to have it so “in your face” on social media. Social media is also the great equalizer so that some very small interest can seem to have the same level of prominence as something huge. But, as you say, it’s up to us to tune things out that aren’t of interest…or in my case to open my eyes and see the things that are drawing attention. So much to think about — glad others are thinking about it, too!

  15. This was fun. I’m with you on avoiding Candy Crush. It sounds way too addicting. Maybe the top retweets being sad — tragic deaths of young talented me — proves the old adage that bad news travels fast. Still sad.

    • Glad you enjoyed the read, Jamie! It was really fun, truly fascinating to research. Yes, Candy Crush is way too addictive (I think I mentioned in a previous comment that I’ve been “addicted” to Tetris and Collapse in previous lives). Oh… your point about bad news traveling fast really does prove true in this case. Very very sad.

  16. I’m so out of touch that when I want to get an idea of the mood of the planet I get out my old mood ring. 🙂 JK
    Seriously though, I think the bad news is RT’d more than the good because it’s sensational and people like to jump on the bandwagon. I try to stay away from that use of social media.

    • I love mood rings and jealous that you have one… well, now that THAT’S aside, I think you’re probably right, Jackie, about bad news being more sensational so it’s RT’d more often. I’m not a bandwagon jumper either — but maybe that’s the problem, I’ve always kind of wondered what that might be like. Maybe the idea for another novel, a sensationalist bandwagon jumper… that’s one way to live the fantasy!