Let's start with number five and work our way to number one.
At number 5 is the end of NASA's manned space exploration program with the launch of the space Shuttle Atlantis on July 21. But what makes this story stand out is what happened two months before Shuttle Atlantis launched. Stephanie Gordon took a picture of the Shuttle Endeavor on its launch into space from her airplane window and it became the iconic image associated with the end of the manned space exploration program. The photo itself took off, gaining more than 600,000 views on Twitpic alone. Gordon's image has also been reposted to countless Web sites, with people describing it as summing up the end of an era.
Number four is all about the rise of the activist hackers. Two hacking groups, one known as 'Anonymous' and the other 'Lulz-Sec' made a name for themselves on the mainstream media scene by hacking their way into several high-profile Web sites including: Syria's government Web site, Britain's 'The Sun' newspaper and Sony's Playstation Web site. However, the biggest one of them all was when Lulzsec briefly took down the CIA's Web site. So how did the hackers announce their security breach? They tweeted about it saying, "Tango down---CIA.gov." However, after 50 days of hacking at will, Lulzsec put a stop to it. As for Anonymous, the hackers from this team are still causing mischief all over the Web.
Taking over the middle of the pack at number three is a tweet that sparked a nationwide financial movement that continues to this day. In July, the Canadian Web site Adbusters tweeted, 'this July fourth dream of insurrection against corporate rule.' At the end, they marked it with #OccupyWallStreet. Soon after, the nationwide protests in the U.S. began. In New York City, protesters occupied Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan which sparked similar outcries and protests in cities like Portland, Los Angeles, Houston, Boston and San Francisco. The 'Occupy' protests became so widespread that even celebrities like Russell Simmons, Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon publicly displayed their support of the movement. Occupy Wall Street became so much a part of our culture that NYU will now be offering a course about the movement.
The number two spot is not only one, but a series of tweets. Pakistani IT consultant Sohaib Athar broke news to the world, without even knowing he'd done so. Using his Twitter account, @ReallyVirtual, Athar unknowingly live-tweeted the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. During the evening of May 1st, Athar tweeted that a helicopter was hovering above his home in Abbotabad followed by explosions. He even tweeted that he was 'annoyed' by it all. The only thing was, Athar had no idea he was tweeting about a top secret mission. U.S. Navy Seals were in the middle of executing their plan to capture and kill bin Laden, the alleged mastermind behind the 9-11 attacks.
Now for the number one story on social media for 2011. When Time Magazine named 'The Protester' as its person of the year, many of us found it hard to argue with the impact protesters had around the world on our society. The one protester who was the catalyst for the Arab revolutions can be pinpointed to Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor who set himself afire after he was repeatedly harassed by Tunisian officials. His last Facebook update may be considered the single most important social media message of 2011. Bouazizi's post read, 'I'm leaving mom, pardon me if I disobeyed you, blame our times don't blame me, I'm leaving forever.' He became the symbol of protst against tyranny, inspiring the Tunisian Revolution. Soon other countries around the world began to revolt, leading to 'Arab Springs' in Libya, Egypt, Yemen Syria and Algeria.
If nothing else, 2011 marks one of the single most history defying years of time in recent memory.