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Searching for Existential Answers with Google Trends

The last few months have led to a flurry of thoughts like:


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source: Giphy

Believe it or not, this was happening around the world. Let’s unpack a few trends. I’ve added some thoughts on a few that otherwise would go unnoticed.

Mike Birbiglia said it perfectly:

Google Trends

Let’s compare some of these big questions with Google Trends.

First, I admit existential is a stuffy word. I don’t like it much. In case you were wondering: It means “relating to existence or our existence.” I’ve looked up this work at least a handful of times, I hate using it but it’s the right one for this set of questions.

That aside, the last few months have been quite the unreliable, wobbly suspension bridge…

US Google Trends (last 90 days)

Just when we thought 2020 was finally over. 2021, jumped right in the mix : /

IMO, there is no “hold my beer” meme strong enough to hold this sentiment, I searched for a long while. I even went to the ‘dark playground‘ and back while searching and still found nothing.

Maybe it’s true when the US loses its way, the rest of the world does too?

Global Google Trends (last 90 days)

Clearly the recent events in the US have been globally concerning.

Some thoughts:

  • The 1st spike, November 3rd, 2020, otherwise known as election day in the US…it was as if millions of people participating in the worlds oldest democracy were not quite sure.
  • The 2nd spike, January 6, 2021, was driven by questions like “WHAT IS HAPPENING” or “WHAT IS GOING ON” – sadly and rightfully so
  • Weird Fact: Americans care slightly less about the meaning of life than the rest of the world (just sayin’)

The World Has a Lot of Questions

Some observations:

  • Most people around the world are concerned with national(?) identity (who am I)
  • The US has simply lost its way. There are others too… (where am I).
  • Kazakhstan – *I think* this is what happens when a government abuses their internet protocol (what is going on)
  • A few like South Africa are legitimately concerned (what is happening)

So, What’s Going on Google?

The search results themselves were a bit too literal & short sighted. It seems the best answer to this big, complex question was already authored in 1976 by Marvin Gaye…

Major props to Daisy for showing me the way to Marvin 🙂

In other words, the better answer to “Hey Google, What’s Going On” could be Marvin Gaye. Uh, hey Google, stuff that in your ‘Machine Learning’ pipe, and smoke it. Please & thank you!

Plus the lyrics from What’s Going On might help with some global compassion and good feelings all around (esp. the 2nd verse):

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some loving here today, oh oh

source: Genius

What is the Meaning of Life?

I almost forgot about this one. So let’s briefly dig deeper into the American lack of interest. I found some rather large holes…like the size of entire states.

  • In Nebraska, Wyoming, Alaska & South Dakota – apparently no one cares
  • But North Dakota is like, We REALLY need to know! We are surrounded by the badlands!

Maybe We Just Need Directions?

Leading to the next American insight: most of the US is plain lost

A few more observations:

  • Most of the US seems lost
  • A bit of the northern region is having an identity crisis
  • The rest of the country seems annoyed or in a bad mood
  • Alaska & Hawaii are politely, socially distanced (proof, it’s possible!)

Where Do We Go from Here?

I wish I had a better answer. I’m simply hopeful we learn from recent events and make progress on taking care of our fellow human beings. Today’s presidential inauguration was assuredly a step in the right direction.

But I can leave you with one bit of advice:

DO NOT ask anyone from Wyoming or New Mexico for directions (literal or existential)

Thanks for reading along. Hope I got a smile out of you, cheers!