What were people thinking in 2014? Google's global list

Robin Williams' suicide topped Google's list of 2014's fastest-rising search requests. It beat the World Cup, the Ebola outbreak, the March disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and even the Ice Bucket Challenge. 

REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files
Actor Robin Williams, star of the film "World's Greatest Dad", at the film's premiere in Los Angeles, Calif. in 2009. Williams died of suicide in 2014.

Robin Williams' suicide seared into the world's collective mindset more than anything else this year, based on what people were searching for on Google.

The reaction to Williams' death in August topped Google's list of 2014's fastest-rising search requests. It beat notable events such as the World Cup, the Ebola outbreak, the March disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the Ice Bucket Challenge, an Internet video craze to raise awareness and money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Other topics of worldwide intrigue on Google included the addictive smartphone game "Flappy Bird," bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst, the Middle East extremist group ISIS, the hit Disney movie "Frozen," and the Winter Olympics in Russia.

Williams, Ebola, the World Cup and the Ice Bucket also ranked among the most-discussed subjects this year on Facebook, which released its list last week. Google released its list Tuesday.

Williams' death drove many people to reminisce about his career highlights. In the first few days after his suicide, there was a six-fold increase in the number of Google searches for "carpe diem" — a Latin phrase for "seize the day" that Williams popularized in the film "Dead Poets Society." Reports about Williams' long-running battle with depression caused searches for that term to triple. There was also a flurry of searches about his movies (the top five were: "Mrs. Doubtfire," ''Dead Poets Society," ''Good Will Hunting," ''Jumanji" and "Patch Adams.")

Google's worldwide list of the year's hottest search requests mirrored the activity in the U.S. with a few exceptions. Wurst didn't make the Top 10 list in the U.S., nor did the Winter Olympics. Instead, Web surfers in the U.S. were seeking more information about the August confrontation that culminated in a white policeman shooting and killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Ukraine's conflict with Russia also held more intrigue in the U.S. than the rest of the world.

Google's review follows annual roundups compiled during the previous two weeks by its main search rivals. Although Google's list usually comes last each year, its rankings typically provide more telling insights into what people were thinking because the company's technology processes about two out of every three search requests made on the Internet.

Yahoo's search lists indicated that its websites tend to attract entertainment-minded people. While Ebola topped Yahoo's rankings for 2014, celebrities or entertainers occupied six of the other slots. They were singer Ariana Grande (No. 3), actress Jennifer Lawrence (No. 4), actress Kaley Cuoco (No. 5), reality TV star Kim Kardashian (No. 6), singer Miley Cyrus (No. 8) and actress Jennifer Aniston (No. 10). Yahoo's list was rounded out by: the video game "Minecraft," whose popularity prompted Microsoft to buy it for $2.5 billion earlier this year; "Frozen" and Apple's latest gadget, the iPhone 6.

Instead of doing a wide-ranging compilation of top searches, Microsoft's Bing separated its lists into disparate categories, such as athletes (NBA star LeBron James soared the highest), celebrities (Kardashian reigned), vacation destinations (Costa Rica) and musicians (Beyonce).

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to What were people thinking in 2014? Google's global list
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2014/1216/What-were-people-thinking-in-2014-Google-s-global-list
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe