Google's Year in Search reveals our distanced lives impacted by a rough 2020
2020 has been one heck of a year. Our everyday habits were upended by a pandemic, which forced us to isolate from friends, coworkers, and loved ones. Small businesses have struggled and many have closed as coronavirus all but eliminated shopping and eating out. We lost loved ones, celebrities, and politicians, all while dealing with a president whose refusal to take the disease seriously led to hundreds of thousands of lives unnecessarily lost and, weirdly, the politicization of masks. And in the midst of all that, we saw the launch of a global protest movement demanding a more equitable society, and an end to systemic racism. Also, the president has still not conceded.
The year was filled with confusion, concern, desire, and hope, and our online searches reflected that.
On Wednesday morning, Google released its annual Year in Search report for 2020. The report makes lists based on search terms that had sustained, high traffic spikes this year compared to last year.
Standing at the top of the list of 10 highest trending global searches is, of course, "coronavirus." "Coronavirus update" and "coronavirus symptoms" also made the list. Second was "election results" followed by "Kobe Bryant," whose sudden, unfortunate death shocked the world. "Zoom," the video conferencing app that experienced a meteoric rise in popularity, came in fourth.
Search trends in the United States were similar to the global list. "Election results" came at number one, followed by "coronavirus" and "Kobe Bryant." The shocking passing of 'Glee' actress Naya Rivera and 'Black Panther' actor Chadwick Boseman also added their names to the trending list.
Americans also looked for "Zoom" and "who is winning the election." Last on the list of top ten is "PlayStation 5," the latest video game console from Sony that is still ridiculously difficult to obtain for many people.
In terms of news, Americans expressed their collective worry about their livelihoods as they searched for information about "election results," "stimulus checks," and "unemployment." The hunt for the "murder hornet" nest in Washington State also caught people's attention.
As beauty salons closed due to lockdowns in the U.S., more people decided to became DIY hairdressers with searches like "how to cut men's hair at home," "how to color your hair at home," and "how to trim your own hair." People also wanted to know "how to make hand sanitizer" and "how to make a face mask with fabric."
The video game industry saw a boost in popularity, too, as people hunted for things to do at home. Surprisingly, Animal Crossing ranked sixth on the list; Among Us, a mafia-like multiplayer game, was number one, likely thanks to a healthy boost from streamers and AOC.
There are a number of quirky finds in the trends as well. "Baby Nut" somehow made it to the list of top baby-related searches. A lot of people looked up "sourdough bread" and asked "why were chainsaws invented" and "where is Shakira from?" (It feels like this question trends every year.)
People around the world also looked for a "sunset near me" to find a moment where they could take a good, long breather.
But not all searches had to do with finding lockdown activities. This year, a lot of Americans wanted to know how to help others. People searched for "how to help Australia fires," "how to help Black Lives Matter," and "how to help Yemen." "How to donate" was searched twice as often as "how to save money."
In 2020, searches for "how to be an ally" surpassed "how to be an influencer" as the public became more aware of the injustices rooted in our justice, healthcare, educational, and electoral systems. Folks asked Google "what is systemic racism?" They wanted to know "how to be an anti-racist," which is also the title of a book by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, more than they wanted to know "how to be a millionaire."
Racial justice wasn't solely a topic for Americans, either. "Black Lives Matter" was searched by people all around the world, growing exponentially compared to last year. And back in the U.S., "Juneteenth" became the top trending holiday.
Google trends have shown that this rough, stressful year was also one that involved a lot of soul searching. People were determined to remain connected despite physical distances, were keenly aware of unfairness in the world, and sought ways to help others despite the risks from the virus.
If there's one thing to bring into the next year, it's the resilience, empathy, and awareness we've been building up for months. Here's to staying strong and helping others despite what life throws at us.