Photo: US Coast Guard
There were 25 billion 140-character tweets sent out in 2010, and more of them were concerned with the BP Gulf Spill than any other topic. Twitter has just released its list of the top 10 tweets for 2010, and it's a pretty interesting blend of pop culture phenomena, world events, and debuting gadgetry. And seeing as how Twitter has grown to be pretty international in its reach and user base, I was a tad surprised to see that the BP spill took the top slot. Here's how the top trends broke down:Top 10 Twitter Trends of 2010
1. Gulf Oil Spill
2. FIFA World Cup
4. Haiti Earthquake
6. Apple iPad
7. Google Android
8. Justin Bieber
9. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows
10. Pulpo Paul
Perhaps more surprising is the fact that Pulpo Paul, the German soccer prophet octopus made the list at all (and I guess the Chilean miners didn't have smart phones while they were stuck down there ...).
Regardless, it is interesting to see that amongst the younger-skewing demographic that's embraced twitter, the BP spill was the most frequently discussed topic this year. This is likely due to a number of factors; not the least being the sheer length of time the Macondo well kept gushing and the BP spill remained prominently fixed in the public eye.
Yet it's important to put all that attention in context -- despite being the most visible event of the year (at least in the US), and capturing the imagination of tech-literate Twitter users everywhere, the overall impact of the spill on US policy and general public attitude has been extremely mild. The public interest and outrage wasn't enough to push Congress to back a bill that would alleviate US dependence on foreign oil. It wasn't enough to keep large swaths of Americans from calling for more offshore drilling.
So, a far cry from the days when an oil spill (or a fiery river) could galvanize popular support for environmental protections, most people were content to dissect the latest developments in the BP spill on the intertubes. Instead of major demonstrations, we saw information and opinion trading largely confined to a voyeuristic echo chamber online. This serves to highlight the new challenges, and perhaps new paradigms, for affecting change in the interconnected world -- how do you effectively channel the digitized rage of the plugged-in masses? Besides hacking and the relatively ineffective online petition campaigns, of course ...