In 2013, people just wanted to know how to twerk. It was a more innocent time. This year, people wanted to know if they had Ebola.
Google has released its annual round-up of the year’s top global searches. Apple, Facebook and other companies also do these recaps, but those only show what we bought or posted publicly on social media. Our search history is a more honest, sometimes embarrassing, peek into what we really care about.
In 2014, the entire world was sad about the passing of Robin Williams, excited to watch the World Cup and worried about Ebola. Those three topics top the list of global trending searches, which also includes missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, the viral phenomenon Ice Bucket Challenge, addictive smartphone game Flappy Bird and Eurovision winner and drag queen Conchita Wurst.
Celebrity deaths tend to dominate Google’s year-end lists. Last year Paul Walker was the top trending topic after dying in a car accident, and Nelson Mandela and “Glee” actor Cory Monteith were in the top five. Google breaks out a special, sad category of “trending celebrity losses” to show the deceased celebrities we searched for most. Following Williams on this year’s list were Joan Rivers, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Maya Angelou and Jan Hooks.
Most popular global searches for living people were Jennifer Lawrence and Kim Kardashian. French actress Julie Gayet was third on the list, likely because of allegations that she had an affair with French President Francois Hollande. Tracy Morgan’s tragic car accident and Renee Zellweger’s new look also stoked our curiosity. In the United States, domestic abuse made NFL’s Ray Rice a top searched for person, and NASCAR driver Tony Stewart was a top topic after he struck and killed fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. during a race.
Google is a first stop for questions people may be to embarrassed to ask their friends. This year’s top “What is…” queries included Ebola, ALS, ISIS, Bitcoin and asphyxia. Apple’s Airdrop feature, which lets you share files between Apple devices, was either very popular or very confusing. It made the list of top “What is…” searches and was the top trending “How to…” search for the year. After sharing files, we just wanted to know how to contour with makeup, vote, kiss and craft.
Google is a popular first stop for looking up various health symptoms. Ebola was the top term here too, but it wasn’t the only ailment we thought we might have in 2014. The top searches for symptoms also included the flu, pregnancy, Aspergers, and spurred on by the Ice Bucket Challenge, ALS.
Like hypochondriacs, dog owners also take to Google in large numbers. In a special round-up of top dog related searches, we learn that dog people want to know why Sparky keeps eating grass and if he can dream.