The Most Surprising Twitter Trends of 2011

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Twitter has revealed its top trending topics for 2011 — a list that always manages to surprise us on some level every year. With millions of voices chattering in one place, the breakdown provides a fascinating snapshot of popular culture — and yes, highlights plenty of trends we should probably feel embarrassed about wasting our precious 140 characters on. If you told us on New Year’s Day that some of these names, events, and subjects would have been the words at everyone’s fingertips, we’d have been shocked. What didn’t trend is equally curious, and we examine it all past the break. Ignore the insane ramblings of today’s “#nevertrustagirl” and “#YouKnowAFatPersonInvented” topics, and see what surprised us in this year in review. Leave your picks below.

Charlie Sheen (#1 Actor), #tigerblood (#2 Hashtag), and Two and a Half Men (#2 Television)

After Charlie Sheen’s noisy departure from CBS’s Two and a Half Men — a sitcom that made the actor the highest-paid star on television (around $1.8 million per episode) — and his disparaging remarks about producer Chuck Lorre, Sheen became an overnight sensation in the Twitterverse. His public meltdown — complete with #winning demented tweets about Adonis DNA and Twitter’s #2 trending hashtag of 2011, tiger blood — won him the honor of “Fastest Time to Reach 1 Million Followers” in the Guinness Book of World Records. Not bad for a guy you’d have pegged for an eventual semi-quiet retirement on the small screen?

McLobster (#1 Food and Drink)

Rumors about national distribution of one of McDonald’s regional creations, the McLobster — a vomitous-looking take on the classic lobster roll — spread across Twitter earlier this year. The sandwich is supposedly made with real lobster meat, slathered in mysterious sauces, and shoved in what looks like a hotdog bun. We hope the Internet knows where to buy a real lobster when it craves seafood — and doesn’t attempt to eat the McLobster with the #2 trending Food and Drink, Fried Kool-Aid, if it wants to live.

The Craigslist Killer (#3 Television)

A TV movie about murdering medical student, Philip Markoff — otherwise known as the Craigslist Killer, since he met his victims on the ad site — was the subject of one of Lifetime’s most popular movies. The Twitter 2011 list doesn’t make it clear, but many of the top trenders may have benefited from sponsored marketing pushes on the social media website. We’d never have guessed that a Lifetime Original would have been amongst the year’s most talk-worthy television topics, so we wonder if The Craigslist Killer had a little help. If not, feel free to anonymously confess your dirty Lifetime addiction below. We’re all friends here.

People’s Choice Awards (#2 Television)

Host Ricky Gervais gave the Golden Globe Awards some decent buzz, helping the show win a #4 spot on top television trends — but it perplexes us that the People’s Choice Awards won #5. Even though folks throw entire theme parties based on The Oscars, the legendary Hollywood ceremony is missing from the list altogether. It’s possible that this was another sponsored push from the marketing gods. Were “the people” really just tuning in to find out what everyone was wearing, or do they actually enjoy watching the awkwardly predictable show with endless blatant product placement?

Duke Nukem Forever (#5 Tech)

In development since 1996, gaming geeks never expected to see vaporware list lifer Duke Nukem Forever on the shelves in 2011. After a long series of letdowns regarding a release, the game finally hit stores, and … it sucked. After such a build up, the final product was an overwhelming letdown amongst fans — making Duke hardly something worth talking about except to maybe warn others to save their money. We’re also wondering how the game managed to trend higher than always popular tech topics like the iPhone and iPad.

Raven-Symoné (#4 Actresses)

We thought it was so Raven that the former Olivia Huxtable, Raven-Symoné, showed up on the 2011 list of most talked about actresses when we haven’t heard much from her for some time now. Since we can’t see Twitter that abuzz over her new show State of Georgia, that only leaves one explanation: Justin Bieber. The 17-year-old singer took to his Twitter page, asking Symoné if she wanted to dance with him. Her response? “Arnt you cute& Lets do a song together, then we can dance&.:-)” And the Internet exploded.

Rebecca Black and “Friday” (#1 Music)

Inane, Auto-Tune nightmare, sadistic, and untalented are just a few ways that people have described the confusing phenomenon that is Rebecca Black’s “Friday” — which topped the 2011 Twitter music charts. No one can predict what will become the next ironic overnight sensation, but at least Black knows what seat she can take in the social media sphere. Go for the front seat, girl.

Raid on Osama bin Laden (#2 World News)

A 33-year-old computer programmer is responsible for helping trend part of Twitter’s biggest world news. Shohaib Athar tweeted about a helicoper hovering over Abbottabad in Pakistan. A loud bang that shook his windows concerned him. Unbeknownst to him, the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound was underway — resulting in the death of the Al-Qaeda founder. The elusive jihadist leader had evaded capture for a decade, making this one of the most surprising trends to come out of Twitter’s newsroom in 2011.