By Dorrine Mendoza, CNN
(CNN) — If you can’t recall everything you loved and hated about 2012, Facebook, Twitter and Google all just released their year-in-review reports. And all three reflect what many of us experienced firsthand:
Thousands of strangers gathering to watch a rover land on Mars and a man fall from space.
A hurricane slamming the East Coast while the world watched tragedy strike and heroes emerge.
Social media, combined with the ability to search and surface information almost instantly, repeatedly brought Internet users together to huddle around the virtual campfire, sharing their stories through image, text and sound.
Whitney Houston’s accidental drowning death was Google’s top search trend, generated more than 10 million tweets and was the third-biggest event on Facebook in 2012. Hurricane Sandy generated more than 20 million tweets, was the fourth biggest event on Facebook and was the top trending event of 2012 on Google. Politics and political gaffes (remember Big Bird?) were top news trends on Google.
Google defines trends as those searches with the highest amount of traffic over a sustained period in 2012 when compared to 2011.
Although social media and search engines serve different purposes, both ultimately reveal what the world is talking about. More than two-thirds of American adults online now use social media regularly, according to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. More women than men are social media users, which could explain how “Fifty Shades of Grey” wound up as the fourth most-read book of the year on Facebook.
More than 90% of adults aged 18-29 are on social media, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the “Hunger Games” series accounted for the top three most-read books and the No. 1 movie among members of Facebook.
Trends on Twitter seemed to reflect a more diverse demographic. Its most popular tweets came from President Barack Obama celebrating “Four More Years,” Justin Bieber mourning the loss of a young cancer patient and frustrated NFL player TJ Lang ranting about the league’s replacement refs.
Overall trends in the U.S. seemed to reflect a natural curiosity about the new, with top “What Is” trends being SOPA, KONY, Yolo and “What is Instagram?”
For more on the trends:
Twitter: 2012 Year on Twitter
Google: Google Zeitgeist 2012
Facebook: 2012 Year in Review