Some 35 million Facebook users update their status every day, or around ten percent of the service’s 350 million monthly active users. Meanwhile, the service has grown by 200 million new people in the past year; the US alone now has nearly 100 million, including many of the parents and grandparents of the service’s original college users.
So, Facebook today released an internal study of the top status update terms of the past year — and it’s worth a closer look, because the data says something about what’s going on in the country (or at least the third of it on the site). If you want to get a better understanding of Facebook’s methodology, read the company’s post, here.
15. From “is” to “I”
“I” just made it on because Facebook changed its status update box terminology in March: It used to show the user’s name, then the word “is” and space to enter a message. An interface change took the “is” out and, as the company shows, “usage of ‘I’ doubled almost overnight.”
The last year has seen dramatic increases for “Lord,””God,” and “Easter” with the last term rising by nearly 30% from 2008 to 2009. The increases, in total, came in around 50% year over year — maybe the country is becoming more religious, although the broader demographics are probably contributing to the increase.
13. The “yard,” sort of like playing FarmVille
A lot of Facebook users spent time in their yards this past spring — significantly more so than in past years. This is likely due to older people with greener thumbs talking about doing yard work on Facebook.
12. “Lady Gaga”
The pop singer got big this past year, especially driven by her performance at the MTV music Awards, as well as a Christopher Walken “performance” of one of her songs, according to the data.
11. This year and next year
New Years, 2009, was a big day for “2009” and the number “2010” is looking forward to being an even bigger hit in a couple weeks.
Facebook redesigned its home page in March to be more like microblogging service Twitter — but by April, from what the company has now revealed, Facebook had seen “mentions of Twitter” fall off “a bit.”
Aside: One has to wonder how this data affected Facebook’s subsequent plans for its product, like the algorithmic news feed it introduced this past fall.
However, the Twitter-based term “RT” (short for “retweet”) has continued to grow, at least on Facebook. It is now, according to Facebok, “a common acronym for any sort of reposting, not just on Twitter, and it has remained high as many Facebook users now use “RT” when they repost something.” We’ll see how the term “RP” does next year.
9. Let’s be friends on FB
Abbreviations are big on Facebook, just like they are on Twitter, instant message services, SMS, and other short-form digital communication services. So it’s fitting that both “FB and “FB Friends” have gotten big, with the former growing by 20 times and the latter growing 100 times since the beginning of 2008.
8. The politics of “Health Care”
Mentions of the term are up by 10 times over the past year, with an especially notable rise as a result of millions of health care reform advocates posting an identical political message as status updates.
7. Sports, and their champions
The Steelers won the Super Bowl last February then the Yankees won the World Series this past October. Unsurprisingly, given that the Super Bowl happens in one evening and the World Series is a multi-day event, the former team saw a briefer, bigger spike and the latter saw a lower, broader increase in status updates.
6. Movies, by which we mean Twilight: New Moon
“The biggest movie of 2009, according to FB status updates, was the critically acclaimed masterpiece New Moon,” as the post describes the move. “It narrowly edged out the summer blockbusters Harry Potterand Transformers. The only real question now, is how many Oscars will New Moon get?” We have nothing further to add on that one.
5. Facebook “family”
Familial relations, including the words “mom,” “dad,” “son,” and “daughter,” all doubled. The word “family” saw big increases around holidays, and the word “kids” increased by 5 times — perhaps more of Facebook’s earliest users are starting families of their own?
4. R.I.P celebrities
Musician Michael Jackson’s death, and subsequent televised funeral, was a huge deal for millions of Facebook users; turns out the passage of television marketer Billy Mays and actor Patrick Swayze also registered with millions, according to the company.
The strain of virus formerly known as “swine flu” produced “a huge media frenzy at least as big as avian flu a couple of years ago, and mad cow disease before that,” as the post appropriately notes. The friendlier-to-pigs term, “H1N1,” has managed to infect Facebook, occurring as frequently as “swine flu” this past fall.
We assume millions of Facebook users have not started to code in Facebook Markup Language, but have rather started using a biological metaphor for how they feel about their lives at the moment they update their statuses. The term became especially big in May, around the time many students take final exams, then decreased over the summer, and became bigger later in the year — with Tuesdays surprisingly outpacing Mondays.
1. FML = FarmVille…. my life
While parents may have enjoyed yard work last spring, people of all ages have become addicted to Zynga’s hit farming game FarmVille since it launched in June. The app is by far the largest game on Facebook, with more than 73 million monthly active users as of today.
Meanwhile: While you many not believe it from recent newspaper headlines, politics — besides “health care” has become something Facebook users update about less frequently about this year. At least electoral politics; this is not too surprising, considering that this is not an election year.
Same with swearing, although some terms, as the example above shows, appear to have gone undercover now that users are friends with mom and grandma.