Art Culture > Social Media > Our digital world according to Google Date posted: January 8, 2013

Our digital world
according to Google

Google Zeigeist 2012

The year in review period is just about over but there’s still time for one last sum up of what happened last year on the web.

The ever-thoughtful folks at Google put together Zeitgeist which packages in a very tidy and useable way what the most searched subjects were for 2012. The result is a powder keg of social relevant information, the kind of information marketing executives stab each other in the back to get their hands on and it’s available to you for free.


The ‘most searched in the world’ category is obviously skewed with China leaving a very large empire-shaped hole in the data, while Russia relies on Yandex for its interweb search needs. The US dominates the traffic but as you can see there is a significant Brazilian and Indian influence.

Whitney Houston 

On top of the search world for 2012 is none other than Whitney Houston who drowned in a bathtub in a Beverly Hills hotel in February. Considering her life had become a real time slow motion car wreck for the previous decade it was a tragic but very foreseeable end for the talented diva, which makes it a little surprising that she became the most searched subject of the whole year.


Gangham Style 

Next on the list is ‘Gangham Style’ which is not surprising, as you can be forgiven for not knowing what the hell it is when you first hear about it and duly typing it into your Google search field. Once viewed though, you could also be forgiven for still not knowing what the hell you’ve just seen and duly waste the rest of the afternoon trying to decipher the greatest mystery of our time. Third spot is taken up by another natural disaster of immense proportions Hurricane Sandy, which although wreaking havoc on the Eastern seaboard in October left a trail of destruction that is still being mopped up in 2013.

One Direction 

It would seem that the younger generations are more visually inclined as the top image searches for 2012 are Selena Gomez and One Direction. It would appear that teenage girls make up the single biggest global demographic for image searching. That’s a scary thought. As the late great Bill Hicks once said, ‘can there BE that much babysitting money in the world?’ 

Jeremy Lin 

Surprisingly Mario Balotelli is the only footballer to make the grade of top 10 most searched athletes with Chinese colossus Jeremy Lin the alpha male in this category. In the Olympic year there are surprisingly few Olympians in the top 10 with only Michael Phelps, McKayla Maroney, Tom Daley and Ryan Lochte making the grade. Sport’s 2012 arch villan Lance Armstrong is in at no. 8, but that story is set to run and run.



Sandy was the biggest event searched followed closely by Kate Middleton’s bare chested sun worshipping, Which garnered more searches than the Olympics (!). The Presidential debate was beaten to the post of 6th by none other than Italy’s hapless Captain Schettino and the biggest cruise ship fail of the year, the foundering of the Costa Concordia. Felix Baumgartner’s stratosphere jump came in in 7th place.

Michael Clarke Duncan

Giant actor Michael Clarke Duncan made the fourth most person searched in 2012, which proves the affable actor best known for his breakthrough role in ‘The Green Mile’ was infinitely more popular in death than in life. Morgan Freeman made the list mostly due to the recurring rumour of his demise that simply won’t go away. Donna Summer the other diva to check out in 2012 just about made the list at number 10.


Avenida Brasil

Brazil dominates the most searched television shows category with the television phenomenon of Big Brother out in front, while the middle class soap opera Avenida Brasil in second. Avenida Brasil became so popular last year that even President Rousseff planning her schedule around certain episodes of the drama. The programme is notable for putting the lives of Brazil’s aspirational middle class centre-stage whereas before it was the lives of the super wealthy that dominated.


Probably the most revealing of the search lists is the ‘How to’ section, which in the United States was topped by the question ‘How to Love’. Sweet and sentimental as it sounds, we suspect that if you don’t know how to love, you’re unlikely to get any satisfactory pointers from Wikipedia. However, number two ‘How to rock’ could offer an altogether more rewarding search. While number five’s ‘How to hate’… well that’s anyone’s guess.

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