#indyref UK’s most talked about Facebook subject

The referendum was more talked about than the ice bucket challenge and the World Cup. Picture: Neil Hanna
The referendum was more talked about than the ice bucket challenge and the World Cup. Picture: Neil Hanna
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FOR the first nine months of the year at least, it seemed there was no other story in town, as people from around the UK debated the merits or otherwise of Scotland going it alone.

Now, newly released research from the world’s leading social network has detailed how September’s independence referendum was the key water cooler topic of 2014.

Facebook has issued data showing how the most significant date in the country’s political calendar was a talking point across not only in Scotland, but across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The referendum, commonly referred to on social networks by the hashtag, #indyref, was the most discussed topic of the year throughout the UK.

In a sign of how the independence debate engaged the nation like never before, it trumped even the football World Cup and the widespread charity ice bucket challenge as the big issue of the past 12 months.

The research from Facebook shows how, even long before the date of referendum itself, independence was a lynchpin of status updates up and down the country.

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In the five weeks leading up to the vote, there were over 10 million interactions on Facebook about the referendum. On polling day itself, there 3.3 million interactions, 1.9 million of which took place in Scotland.

The analysis of the discussion generated by the 27 million British users to log in to Facebook every day found the ALS ice bucket challenge - which saw people post videos of themselves being soaked with freezing cold water to help raise funds for charity - was the UK’s second most talked about topic on Facebook.

The global phenomenon saw around 17 million videos shared around the world, while the footage was viewed more than 10 billion times around the word by more than 440 million people. Former President George W. Bush had the most widely watched video, with more than 39 million views.

According to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, the trend was an eye opener for many people. “I think the Ice Bucket Challenge was the first time a lot of people realized you could shoot a video and share it,” she said.

Football also featured prominently in the topics that sparked discussion, with this summer’s Brazil World Cup taking third place in the top 10 UK list. The conclusion of last year’s Premier League title race was the fourth most talked about topic, while, the replacement of Scottish manager David Moyes by Dutchman Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United was the seventh most discussed issue. The Champions League final also sneaked into the list at ninth place.

Other issues that featured prominently in newsfeeds throughout the year were the conflict in Gaza (fifth place), the death of comedian and actor, Robin Williams (sixth), the outbreak of the Ebola virus (eighth) and the centenary of World War I (tenth).

Globally, the World Cup - won by Germany - was the most popular topic, inspiring three billion interactions by over 350 million people, making the most widely discussed issue in Facebook’s history.

Ms Sandberg said those statistics demonstrated how the way people watch big sporting events is changing, with social media playing a much more important role.

She explained: “Historically, [the World Cup] has meant watching it from your TV, from a distance. But Facebook and social media made it much more social and much more connected.”

“At its best, social media makes the world a smaller place and builds community on a global level.”

At number three in the global list, the presidential election in Brazil was the most talked about election of 2014, even more than the congressional midterms in the US.

Facebook said some 48 million people had 674 million interactions - status updates, photos, videos, comments and likes - about the highly contested event.

The Year in Review top 10 lists were measured by how frequently a topic was mentioned in Facebook posts made between January and December 2014. To put this list together, these updates were analysed in an aggregated, anonymized way and then ranked to create a snapshot of the year.

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