The Year in Tweets

Stephen Colbert was most retweeted on Twitter; see what else ranked.

December 15, 2010, 3:14 PM

Dec. 15, 2010 -- You are what you tweet. So what does Twitter's list of the "10 Most Retweeted Tweets of the Year" reveal about us?

That we like music. A lot. And we like to laugh.

A full seven out of the 10 most retweeted tweets -- tweets that Twitter users quote in their own stream -- are by musicians. They range from affirming (Lady Gaga: "I'm beautiful in my way, 'cause God makes no mistakes") to mildly provocative (Kanye West: "I'm sorry Taylor") ... to Justin Bieber (Rihanna: "Justin Bieber flashed me his abs in the middle of the restaurant" and Joe Jonas: "I cry because I love Justin Bieber!!!").

Three of the 10 were just plain funny. Rounding out the list is an unprintable witticism by the hilariously profane Sh*tMyDadSays, the first-ever Twitter-to-TV stream. In September, a parody al Qaeda stream -- with Osama bin Laden as its avatar -- tweeted "Just noticed Twitter keeps prompting me to 'add a location to your tweets.' Not falling for that one."

The most retweeted tweet of the year? Stephen Colbert's scathing riff on the BP oil spill: "In honor of oil-soaked birds, 'tweets' are now 'gurgles.'"

In all, an astonishing 25 billion tweets were sent in 2010, according to Twitter. It's hard to imagine what the cumulative impact of all that keyboard tapping -- whether inane or enlightened -- may be. Earlier in the week, Twitter summed up what it considered the "10 Most Powerful Tweets of 2010" -- a slightly less quantifiable quality than raw popularity. Some of these were predictably political: the White House welcoming Russian President Medvedev to Twitter, the Prince of Wales' private office announcing Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton.

2010 According to Twitter

Refreshingly, the "most powerful tweet" list also includes some surprises: When she crashed her bike and seriously injured herself in a forest with no cell phone reception, triathlete Leigh Fazzina saved her own life when she tweeted out a call for help. Another call for help came from reporter Ann Curry, who used Twitter to convince the U.S. Air Force to allow a Doctors Without Borders flight to land in Haiti shortly after the devastating earthquake.

Others on the list are less clearly impressive. Does Conan O'Brien's announcement of a comedy tour really count as a "powerful" tweet, or was it just savvy marketing?

Finally, Twitter also listed the biggest trends in microblogging over the past year. These were ostensibly the topics that we cared most about in 2010: According to Twitter, the continuously updated Trends lists are "automatically generated by an algorithm that attempts to identify topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously."

In what is either a suggestion of how widespread the use of Twitter has become -- or an indication of how broad the interests of its users are -- the biggest Twitter Trends are globally oriented. The World Cup (and Vuvuzelas) ranked highly; so did Haiti. We like our movies ("Inception," "Harry Potter") and, unsurprisingly given the forum, our technology (Androids and iPads specifically). The biggest trend of the year was the the BP Oil Spill. Shockingly, neither Wikileaks nor Julian Assange rank in the top 10.

And yet, given all that serious stuff, Justin Bieber managed to muscle his way into that list too (at number 8). Must be by the grace of those dreamy abs.

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