Google Knows What You Search For

By Ken Wallingford

Note: the findings in this piece were accurate at the end of 2012. If you search Google Trends right now, at this very second, you might find different results. For example, as of January 21, 2013, Pakistan is the country that has dug into Google most often about “terrorism”. Feel free to poke around Google Trends yourself. It’s fun.

I want to congratulate the Australian and American readers. You’ve won. You sick fucks. Why were you searching Google for videos of guys putting needles in their balls or castrating themselves? Did you think that your searches would go unnoticed? You might think that you’re anonymous on the web, but Google knows who you are.

Curiosity gets the best of us sometimes. We've become so accustomed to having Google at our fingertips that we forget the power of what it does. We forget what it tracks. While Google can’t publish the confidential stuff, they do release a zeitgeist every year. The 2012 Zeitgeist is largely a redundant list of things everyone already knows. We know "Gangnam Style" was huge, we know The Hunger Games was a hit, we know everyone wants to know about the next big Apple product.

Sure, Zeitgeist has some significance in demonstrating cultural waves year after year. But what does it exclude? What do people search at 3AM that they wouldn’t dare post to Facebook?

On Google Trends you can search anything you want. I took the opportunity to search for unusual fetishes, crude slang and disturbing ideas. The results from this highly scientific experiment were truly surprising.


Related trendy searches for "how to make a bomb"

Type in orgasm and you’ll find Zambia has searched it the most. Pakistan is curious about horse porn; South Africa wants to know how to make a bomb; Ghana is worried about gonorrhea; Nigeria, well, they searched terrorism more than others. The list goes on, and despite every country in the G20 having access to the internet, some developing countries blew others out of the water when it came to taboo searches. But we’ll get to that later.

Google Trends doesn’t calculate the total number of searches made for a particular word. Instead, the search engine uses relative volumes. Since Kenya searched dog porn the most, the relative volume is 100. Next came Pakistan with the volume of 64, and India with 49. These numbers tell us that if people in Kenya searched dog porn approximately 100 times, Pakistan searched it 64 times, etc.

Google Trends, and the Zeitgeist in particular, reflects moments that capture what’s going on in the world. The results are mirrored in a graph that also depicts points in the year where the media publishes a story on the topic.

In Canada, where I live, we’re obviously curious about our marijuana. Where to buy weed came up with Canada at the top of the list, while related terms like weed seeds, growing weed and other pot-related terms saw our country second only to our brothers to the south. The US doesn’t beat us in everything, however, because Canada was the country to search Carly Rae Jepsen the most in 2012. Did you forget she was Canadian?

Of course Zeitgeist has the pop music scene covered. Zeitgeist doesn’t cover small, less economically significant countries (basically those in which they don’t have any offices).

Cue Papua New Guinea. Forgot about those New Guineans, didn’t you? So did I until I searched the word cunt. People in Papua New Guinea (we’ll call it PNG from now on for word count’s sake) searched "cunt" more than any other country in the world.


Papua New Guinea's gorgeous Menya River, flowing through the land of cunt-googlers.

How is it that PNG, a country of 7 million people searched this word more than any country on Earth? One man supplied me with some answers, and for the times he didn’t have any answers, he at least provided me with some interesting thoughts that I’ve been rolling around in my head ever since.

John Fairfull recently returned to Canada after spending four years in PNG guiding tours around the country. He’s had plenty of interaction with the natives through his work. He’s so badass that he was honoured with an ancient scarification ceremony by a crocodile tribe.

John says the word cunt is actually a very popular word in PNG. Its meaning is much the same as it is for us, but John says men in PNG think it’s a funny word. “It’s actually a really bad word,” he says. “It’s very much a male dominated society, males tend to belittle women by calling them cunts. I’m not surprised they would actually google that word.”

Do the natives laugh at anal sex, incest or lesbians? These were three words that came out with PNG on top in Google Trends as well.

Having seen westerners’ comparative wealth, John says natives are extremely curious. It doesn’t help either that sex is a very taboo topic in this country. People can be arrested and jailed – though John says that’s more of a scare tactic since there aren’t really any jails – for more than 25 years for pornographic-related incidences.

In 2010, PNG was rarely listed in the top ten for these searches. Suddenly, they’re in the lead in 2012. It’s as if an entire country awoke for the first time noticing a massive tent in their pants.

What caused this reaction? Well, the white man. Not strictly white men, but wealthy westerners. It’s the rich men who want to fondle PNG’s sweet, virginal natural resources. Since arriving in 2008, John saw a huge surge in development in the country. Foreigners have been coming into the country for many years, building roads inland and unearthing new resources. John suggests as more foreigners come, especially those in the working class, the natives learn new slang, and see an openness to sex that they weren’t used to.

In a country that’s run largely by mercenaries, where men didn’t even know what doing the missionary position was until they were in bed with their brides, this new exposure to the “white man” has initiated new curiosities.

The award goes to…

When it comes to finding fucked up trends based on the terms that people from all around the world have spent late nights googling, there’s no shortage of disturbing, disgusting and downright horrifying discoveries to be made. To honour this wealth of darkly bizarre internet queries, I’ve decided to hand out three awards for some of my favourite, and least favourite, findings.

The "WTF" Google Search award goes to the West African lady Ghana, Queen of Gold and Cocoa. Apparently Ghana spent much of her year searching “dead body” – more than any other country. While Pakistan was close behind in the race, the country couldn’t hold onto the spot it once had in 2011. Maybe Ghanaians are on a search for the body of their late president, John Atta Mills, who died in July this past year… Yeah, let's go with that.

In related news, the "Disturbing" award goes to a country that seems to have a fascination with necrophilia. Congratulations, Philippines. While a spike in their searches for the fucking of deceased human beings in November was likely caused by the media’s attention to a Swedish woman accused of necrophilia, other spikes throughout the year for necrophilia queries are unknown.

Finally, I’d like to guide your attention to the following two words: Pain Olympics. Before you draw any conclusions, keep reading in order to save your eyes from possible horror. The "Horrifying" award was a tie. As I mentioned before, Australia and the US were tied for first. Aussies and Americans are dead even at searching the internet for the painful competition that involves self-mutilation and dismemberment. I mean, at least necrophilia isn’t sensationalised on the internet as a competitive sport.

Out of pure horror and disgust, nothing more will be said. I'm done here.

More on strange trends:

The VICE Guide to Ugandan Sex Slang

Fringes: Venom Superman

Shuffling: The War at the Heart of London's New Dance Scene

Comments