THE LATEST THINKING
The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.
What Does "Trending" Really Mean?
With major social media and entertainment sites filtering content by what is trending, it’s important to take a look at how this is really decided.
For those of you who gather news and entertainment from mainstream sources, you have undoubtedly seen “trending," showing the most popular news and entertainment of the day. But exactly how is this content determined to be trending before it is presented to you?
Ideally, the winner of the trending designation goes to whatever has gotten the most views, discussion, and all around special attention from viewers. But if you take a look at how these websites determine trending topics, and what ends up making the cut, it becomes clear that some of these topics might not be as hot as they are made out to be. As websites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube become more agenda driven, the content of the trending section suffers.
Take Twitter, for example. Twitter openly admits that trends are tailored to the user, and they will intentionally prevent certain content from trending. YouTube, similarly, explains how the most popular video of the day might not end up being what’s trending. Their system instead tries to determine the content of the trending page based of what they consider relevant to you, and reflective of their platform.
Facebook gives little detail on what makes their content trending, but they have their own policies and practices that filter content comparably.
This doesn’t suggest that websites are not allowed to determine their own trending content. These websites are private companies, and can chose to show or remove whichever content they choose (provided they do not act illegally).
But when people use these sites to gather significant amounts of their news and entertainment, as even you might, it is important to have a skeptical perspective. The content you see may only be what these website want you to see.