Looking at 2015 Through the Lens of Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

We haven’t turned that December calendar page yet but according to the Internet 2015 is already over. The annual Top Ten lists are out, so now we know Drake and Adele were the most streamed musicians on Spotify, #JeSuisParis was the most tweeted hashtag on Twitter, and depending whether you’re looking back with YouTube or Facebook, 2015 was either really fun or a really dark year.

“To put this list together, Facebook posts were analyzed in an aggregated, anonymized way, and then ranked to create a snapshot of the year on Facebook,” is how Facebook explained its results on its blog. In addition to the Top Ten lists, Facebook created a video highlighting the top news stories of the year, including the Paris terrorist attacks and the earthquake in Nepal, as well as events closer to home like the 2016 presidential election and the protests in Baltimore.

According to Facebook, the most talked about events of 2015 were:

  1. US Presidential Election
  2. November 13 Attacks in Paris
  3. Syrian Civil War & Refugee Crisis
  4. Nepal Earthquakes
  5. Greek Debt Crisis
  6. Marriage Equality
  7. Fight Against ISIS
  8. Charlie Hebdo Attack
  9. Baltimore Protests
  10. Charleston Shooting & Flag Debate

It’s a sobering look at some of the major events that defined 2015.

YouTube’s Top Ten lists were based on the amount of time users spent watching, sharing, liking and commenting on videos hosted on its site. And YouTube has taken a very different approach with their year-in-review video. Rather than sound bites and news clips, they’ve produced a slick look back through a pop-culture lens that features the network’s most popular creators and a number of celebrity cameos. #YouTubeRewind is seven minutes long, highlights dance crazes and lip-sync battles, features Left Shark and Joanne, and is set to some of 2015’s most popular music. It’s creative, upbeat, and makes 2015 seems like a whole lot of fun.

As an added bonus, YouTube celebrated it’s 10th birthday this year, so the video hits a few of the highlights from it’s history. Heads up – there’s a Rebecca Black cameo. You’ve been warned.

YouTube’s look back seems to be marketed to a very different crowd than Facebook’s video. That makes sense when you consider the age of the average Facebook user in the U.S. is now 40.5. Over at YouTube, the audience skews much younger – 18-24. Although there’s plenty of valuable content on YouTube, the platform never seems to take itself too seriously. Facebook has been trying to establish itself as more than an additional platform for sharing YouTube videos, the latest memes or family pictures and their respective videos clearly reflect each platform’s goals.

Both bring interesting perspective and I found myself asking, “Was that really just a few months ago?” when several of the events were highlighted. Neither video gives a complete picture – one is thought-provoking, the other pure entertainment – but together, they’re an interesting look back on the year that was.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


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