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3 Ways that Facebook Trending Benefits Society

In the past few weeks, you may have noticed the new “Trending” section on your Facebook feed page:

Facebook Trending Feature

Personally, I’ve found  information in this trending feature to be more helpful than similar features in other social media outlets or websites, generally. However, I’m wondering how this information originates. Because, when you click on the topic, you get to a feed that looks like this:

Yes, I did cognitively choose this topic for a screenshot

Yes, I did cognitively choose this topic for a screenshot

The top result, in my experience thus far, remains static throughout the day. Does this mean that this source is the originating source of the trend? Does it mean that this is the most “trendy” of the stories in this topic? I don’t know. As of yet, I don’t think Facebook has provided this information.

Whether or not you agree with me that the processes behind the organization and curation of these trends is important – you probably agree that this concept is helpful in a few ways:

Organizing the Internet

The Internet & social media are full of too many topics. News websites have clear biases. So, it can be difficult for individuals to sift through information for interesting, relevant stories or events. This has been an issue since the dawn of the internet, and as more websites pop up, it gets more difficult to know which ones are cool, uncool, informative, a waste of time, etc. Google helps a bit, but sometimes we don’t know what we are looking for, so searching won’t help. News sites offer professional (well, sometimes) articles about local, national and international topics, but they aren’t always interesting, unbiased or worth reading. Trending features, however, collect things that a mass of individuals found to be worth sharing, so the work is already done for us. Plus, you can see comments from all sides of the political, geographical and socio-economic spectrums.

Fixing the Trivial to Significant Ratio

Social media tends to lean toward the trivial, sometimes entirely blotting out societally significant events. However, Facebook Trending seems to help with this, as you’ll typically see a blend of politics, religion, entertainment, literature and so on in the trends. I don’t know if this is a result of Facebook’s algorithmic curation of actual trending topics, or if an actual collection of individuals sorts through a collection of said actual trends and weeds out less significant topics. It could actually be that most triviality comes from individual custom status updates (e.g. “Look what I found in my pantry” with a photo of peanut butter attached), which obviously would trend on a national / international level anyway. Whatever the case, at least people have some encouragement to see good, informative content.

Starting Conversations in Real Life

Thanks to this trending feature, it’s easier to follow similar topics with coworkers, family members, friends etc. (assuming these individuals use Facebook). Who knows if, in the past week, everyone in The Mac Groups office would know and discuss the Malaysian plane incident if Facebook hadn’t launched “trending”? Would we be discussing the situation in Crimea? I don’t know. But, we have been talking about these things and I know that, for me, the place that I first saw many of these topics was Facebook’s trending feature.


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