#TrendingNow: How Twitter Trends Impact Social and Personal Agendas?
Twitter aggregates, in real time, the most popular search terms as trending lists and allows users to learn what is happening in the world. However, reports worldwide have found that networks of humans and bots often hijack Twitter’s trending algorithm to push false narratives. However, do Twitter trending lists influence individuals’ social and personal agendas? This study examines the extent to which Twitter trends shape individuals’ perceptions of social reality. Through a 2 (exposure vs. no exposure to Twitter trends) × 2 (high vs. low context familiarity) online experiment (N = 319), we found that (1) Twitter trends significantly shape people’s perceived social agendas and ultimately influence their personal agendas and (2) context similarity significantly influences both social and personal agendas, and the effects are consistent across different context levels. This study focuses on the individual-level agenda-setting effect of social media trends and provides practical implications for social platform responsibility.