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Are People Talking More About Miley Cyrus Or Syria?

Over the last couple weeks, you probably saw a lot of news about two things: Miley Cyrus and Syria. But which story did people really care about most? We used Facebook's new Keyword Insights API to analyze what people were talking about, and exactly who was doing the talking.

Posted on September 9, 2013, at 3:00 a.m. ET

The Spread of News

Two of the biggest stories during the last two week were Miley Cyrus' performance at the MTV Video Music Awards and the ongoing strife in Syria. We used Facebook's Keyword Insights API, announced today, to see how these two very different types of stories made their way in different age groups and genders. BuzzFeed is one of a handful of news organizations selected for early access to the API.

The VMAs drew much more conversation than Syria overall.

Jacqueline Yue / BuzzFeed

The Aug. 25 VMAs drew a ton of mentions, but the Middle Eastern conflict caught up in just a few days. It even took a noticeable lead on Aug. 31 thanks to President Barack Obama's nationally televised statement.

Youngsters immediately took to their keyboards after Miley Cyrus performed at the VMAs.

Jacqueline Yue / BuzzFeed

And it took a day for old people to chime in. Those 35 and up talked 110% more the Monday after, compared with people under 35 talking just 15% more. The youth were responsible for the huge, out-of-control explosion that started on the internet Sunday night, but the older crowd clearly caught on by the next day.

And the kids talked more than the grown-ups about everything.

Jacqueline Yue / BuzzFeed

Even the nostalgia of an NSYNC reunion wasn't enough to spur the older generations into a lead for any VMA topics. In fact, the oldies only accounted for 10% of the talk about the boy band. Older folks did get the most engaged in matters of Miley and twerking, taking up 29% and 27% of those conversations.

But the conversations about Syria swayed toward the over-35 crowd.

Jacqueline Yue / BuzzFeed

The 35-and-up crew accounted for only 34% of all the conversation we looked at. So, it really speaks volumes that the older folks accounted for nearly half the talk about Syria.

...despite it taking them a while to catch on.

Jacqueline Yue / BuzzFeed

It took until the president's statement for the 35-and-up group to surpass the youths in all conversation related to Syria.

Young people really cared about "syria," though, until they felt they had all the information.

Jacqueline Yue / BuzzFeed

Under-35 people were using the term "syria" more often than the older crowd every day leading up to Obama's statement. They hit their peak the day of the statement and fell behind the 35-plus folks since.

And they only talk about "obama" when he's on TV.

Jacqueline Yue / BuzzFeed

The older crowd led conversations with the term "obama" every day except when he made a big speech. Young people took over when he commemorated the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech on Aug. 28 and when he made a statement on Syria on Aug. 31. Younger people want to talk about the hot topics right away, but those topics go stale real fast in their circles.

Guys had a lot to say about Syria, while girls talked about the VMAs.

Jacqueline Yue / BuzzFeed

Neither gender ever lost the lead in their field of interest.

But males took longer to stop talking about twerking.

Jacqueline Yue / BuzzFeed

Guys had less drop-off in conversations with "twerk" from the 26th to the 27th. They couldn't get Miley twerking off their brains, or they just needed to make sure everyone else had seen it too. Girls got that out of their system more quickly, but both genders stopped caring at nearly the same pace by day three.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.