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The Difference In Discussion Of Pop News And Real News In Social Media

NEWSI just got back from a vacation in which I completely unplugged myself from all. Even social media. It was actually quite nice to do that for a week. Although, when I did that, I enjoyed my vacation, but had no idea what was actually happening in the world apart from what I was seeing in person.

The only time I saw a TV was on the final night of my vacation when the hotel I was staying in had one in their lobby that was showing CNN. In the brief moment I looked at that TV I saw that they were talking about what was going on Syria, so I watched for a minute to try and catch myself up.

When I returned home, I opened my computer and checked my Facebook. There I was greeted with a plethora of status updates and blog posts talking about Miley Cyrus twerking at the MTV Video Awards, an event that happened the night before I left for my vacation a week before. I was kind of baffled as to how this was still such a big topic.

Being the inquisitive young lad that I am, I needed to know more. I wanted to know why people were still talking about Miley and not the conflict that was going on in Syria, which I thought seemed a little more important. So, I took to MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics tool, to do a little research.

I did a comparison of talk about both Miley Cyrus and Syria from the day after the MTV Video Awards, August 26th, to today. What I found was that out of these social conversations, Miley Cyrus held 61% of the conversations while Syria accounted for the other 39%. In terms of actual social media mentions, there was 10,277,289 mentions of Miley Cyrus in that time period. At the same time, there was 6,599,628 mentions of Syria.

MAP - Compare Chart

I won’t lie, those numbers made me feel a bit uneasy. I decided to dig a little deeper though. I broke down those mentions by individual channels to see where these mentions were actually coming from and found something very interesting. When I looked at the mentions by channel I found that in online news articles, blogs and forums, Syria was the main topic of conversation. However, on Twitter, which most people deem to be more of a conversational channel, Miley seemed to be the topic of choice.

MAP - Compare By Source

These numbers are very telling. While at first I was a bit scared for humanity with the initial numbers I saw in the overall comparison, by breaking them down by channel actually tells something more about us and how we use social media.

The sources that we use to look at to find out what is going on in our world, like online news sites and blogs, are talking about real issues. They are covering the story of what is happening to people in Syria. And they’re doing it significantly more than covering a story about a pop star dancing funny. However, in the more conversational channel, Twitter, people are talking about the lighter of the two stories by most likely making jokes and taking jabs.

What I see this telling is that the real important things are there for us to read, learn and know about. But in conversations, people are more drawn to talking about the lighter topics. Why? Well, it’s easier, it doesn’t offend people and (if I can be honest) it’s more fun.

I don’t want to sound preachy and say that people should be talking about one thing over another, but I thought that this was a really interesting observation as to how we interact and conduct ourselves online.

What do you think? Why do you think people are more drawn to talking about the lighter topics in an open conversation that anyone can read on networks like Twitter or Facebook? Let us know in the comments.

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2 Comments on The Difference In Discussion Of Pop News And Real News In Social Media

Suresh Manian said : Guest Report 5 years ago

I observed the same terms crop up over the last week too. mtvhottest, one direction, and miley vyrus, apart from syria seem to have captured the attention. But I do suspect a marketing juggernaut behind the pop stars.

Sabrina Scott said : Guest Report 5 years ago

While I don't understand the obsession with pop culture, your observation definitely rings true. I hope people are aware of what is going on in the world, but can understand a hesitation to openly discuss current events in a public forum. A strong opinion might be offensive, whereas a weak opinion might result in debates the user isn't prepared for. I'd also argue that people sometimes have ulterior motives for posting what they do. Some things (pop culture) are fodder for likes, comments and retweets, whereas hard news generally is not.

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