Facebook's 2009 status update trends: What did you say?

If you think your Facebook friends are the only ones reading your Facebook status messages, think again. Facebook has combed over the status updates posted to the site this year and has compiled them into a Top 15 list that tried to make sense of what people were thinking or doing throughout the year.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive on

If you think your Facebook friends are the only ones reading your Facebook status messages, think again. Facebook has combed over the status updates posted to the site this year and has compiled them into a Top 15 list that tried to make sense of what people were thinking or doing throughout the year.

I have to admit that I got a bit of a creepy feeling by realizing that the data team is doing this sort of analysis - even though I kind of always knew it had to be happening. Still, the data offers some interesting insight into the way people are using Facebook and how it compares to my own usage patterns.

Heres' the edited version of the Top 15, with my own commentary after each item. The unedited version can be found in Facebook's blog post.

1. Facebook Applications - Specific keywords: Farmville, Farm Town, Social Living

I haven't been a big fan of the apps - Farmville, Mafia Wars and so on. But a lot of my friends have and its been interesting to watch as people get caught up in it. I even was engaged in an offline conversation with friends once when the topic shifted to the Farmville experiences everyone has having. It may not be my cup of tea but clearly there are people out there with the free time to engage in these social adventures. I just happen to not be one of them.

2. FML - Specific keyword: FML

Facebook is leaving it up to you to determine what the "F" in the acronym "FML" means - with ML standing for "my life." The slang acronym is largely used to express frustration with some aspect of life. Given the economic climate, the housing situation and the unemployment rate, it was understandable that people would be frustrated - and would turn to their network of Facebook friends to vent some of that frustration.

3.  Swine Flu - Specific words: Flu, Swine Flu, H1N1

It was one of the biggest news stories of the yea with "swine" being used frequently in the early part of the year, only to be replaced with "H1N1" by the end of the summer. Facebook noted that the use of the word "flu" consistently peaked during the middle of the week and was at its lowest on Sundays. Says Facebook: "We're not sure why."

4. Celebrity Deaths - Specific words: Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, Billy Mays

Even I made mention of Michael Jackson's death on Facebook. The burst of mentions of Michael Jackson was unprecedented on Facebook - but even that lasted only about a week. Swayze's death received about two-thirds as many mentions as Michael Jackson.

5. Family - Specific words: Family, Mom, Dad, Son, Daughter, Kids

The site saw significant jumps in the chatter about family members. That doesn't surprise me. Family members who are otherwise not really social networking types, including some who are already grandparents and are using the site to stay connected to distant friends and family, joined Facebook this year. In addition, I saw a lot of younger family members - those who were pretty active MySpace users in the past - jump over to the FB platform.

6. Movies - Specific words: New Moon, Transformers, Star Trek, The Hangover, Paranormal Activity and Harry Potter

Movies and music are big in popular culture and it's only natural that we would use Facebook updates to talk about new movies. With the growing number of teens migrating from MySpace to Facebook, it doesn't suprise me that most mentioned movie on Facebook in 2009 was "New Moon."

7. Sports - Specific words: Steelers, Yankees

Sure, the Steelers win the Super Bowl and the Yankees win the World Series so those, of course, would get big mentions. Personally, I'm a big NFL fan and I tend to do some smack-talk analysis on on Facebook Sundays and Mondays while watching games. Why? Because I tend to get a lot of comments on those updates and engage with friends present and past. Plus, it's just fun.

8. Health Care - Specific words: Health Care, No one should have to…

It's definitely been one of the hottest topics in the U.S. this year and people are increasingly making mention of it on Facebook. In early September, the mention peaked when missions of pro-reform users updated their status with the message: "No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day." Facebook noted that, for two days, millions of people posted this to their profiles.

9. FB - Specific words: FB, FB Friends, News Feed

Want to get Facebook users riled up fast? Just make a change of some sort to Facebook and people will start chiming on about how much they love or hate (mostly hate) something. But why take the time to type out "Facebook" everytime when it's so much easier to just type "FB." Yeah, we know what you're talking about. Usage of the word "FB" has increased about 7 fold since the beginning of 2009 and "FB Friends" increased about 10 times over the same period.

10. Twitter - Specific words: Twitter, RT

It's hard to say if the RT mentions are because people are talking about Twitter more of because so many people are using Twitter apps that allow their Tweets to also be posted to Facebook. I tend to "RT" (aka re-tweet) a lot so it kind of makes sense that those two letters would appear frequently.

11. Years - Specific words: 2008, 2009, 2010

Facebook notes that the number of posts containing a date to increase dramatically in 2009 but that references to the current or upcoming year are found within Facebook. Just wait until we get closer to New Year's Eve.

12. Lady Gaga - Specific words: Gaga, Poker Face

Based on status updates in the U.S., Lady Gaga was the biggest new performer of 2009, Facebook says. A spike in mentions of her name occurred during the MTV Video Music Awards in September. Personally, I've never once mentioned Lady Gaga in a post - nor have I read one. But maybe I'm just friends with the wrong people.

13. Yard - Specific word: Yard

Facebook, like me, has no ideas where this trend came from - and the trend isn't that big, with mentions at a rate of five per every 10,000 updates. But, apparently, the jump is use of this word from 2008 to 2009 was pretty significant. Go figure.

14. Religion - Specific words: Easter, Lord, God

I'm kind of stumped by this one, too, but the trend has been on the rise in the last six months of the year. Maybe it has something to do with tough economic times or something but I am at a loss for this one, too.

15. I - Specific words: I, is

This one makes sense. It used to be that Facebook updates started off with "Sam Diaz is... " and I'd fill in the blanks. But, now it's just a name that tells you who posted, not so much what the person "is doing" any more. Facebook explains that once that status update box was no longer was shown next to people's name, the usage of "is" dropped off dramatically and usage of "I" doubled almost overnight.

And there you have it - Facebook's Top 15 Status Update trends for 2009. And suddenly, having been through the list, I'm feeling a bit less paranoid about how much of my data Facebook's teams are digging through. After all, I don't think I've use "yard" in an update and I know I've never referenced "Lady Gaga," "H1N1" or "New Moon."

Maybe I'm just Facebook boring. That's not such a bad thing.

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