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Society through Google Trends


Recently, I have been wondering about where we are headed as a species and as a society. I wanted to find statistics that could possibly lead me in the right direction, and then I thought of Google Trends.

Google Trends is an online application that shows popularity of the search terms entered into Google. Now, I suppose that should be a valid statistical indicator, since the population of Internet users is growing, and Google is the most used search engine.

Now, I punched some keywords into the Google Trends application, and for most of them I was shown a decline over time. I wanted to know what people are interested in, and what is losing popularity, so I entered some keywords that I thought would describe good social values some time ago, like “education”, “classical” (as classical seems to be something that has proven in value) and “tutorial” (since, I guess, finding tutorials would be a way to improve one’s knowledge and abilities). Interestingly, all of these inputs had a steady decline. I understand that classical music enthusiasts won’t enter “classical” into the search box, but rather the name of the composition or composer they want to hear However, it would be a good indicator of the number of people who want to see what the classical has to offer. Apparently, the number of these people lessens through time.

This was a bit disappointing, but intrigued me to type in more keywords.

Then I tried more concrete terms, but to no avail.

Now, of course, I had to type “porn” as a keyword, just to see how it relates to other terms in search.

Who would have thought? It is interesting that there was actually a point in time where history was more interesting than porn. Science, not surprisingly, is negligible. From the above, I tried more specific searches that relate to pornography, and found an interesting rise in popularity.

At first, when I saw the decline in popularity in knowledge, learning and classics I thought it is due to the fact that people are using less search and more direct traffic. But obviously, people use search. And, sadly, people search for rape videos more often now.

I turned to social networks, to see their popularity in search.

Facebook is, beyond a doubt, the leader in search.

Wikipedia is dropping in search, and so is the keyword “wiki”. Also, interest in health is dropping.

So people are not using more direct methods, they are typing the social networks’ names into the search bar. I realize that Google adds “Google” to the names of many of its products, but, from what I’ve seen here, there must be people who type “Google” into Google to find Google. I thought maybe art would show an increase in popularity, or at least stay unchanged.

Apparently, art is not being popular. I checked more specific terms, names of compositions, artists etc., and found only falling graphs.

So, people find everyday things to be more interesting than scientific or artistic knowledge. Everyday, mundane, trivial things are becoming increasingly popular. But perhaps people are interested in the creator of their favorite social network. Perhaps some of them would be interested in people who actually made Facebook and digital age possible, like Dennis Ritchie.

Short answer: no they wouldn’t.

Besides social networks, I found a rise in search for food delivery, which could suggest we are getting ever lazier. People type “what to do” and “bored” into search.

Sport seems to have a slight increase in popularity. However, I found an interesting article about the relation of vocabulary words used and the number of visits to sports websites.

I am not sure of the credibility of the article where I found this graph, but the link is available here: http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2008/11/how-are-iq-and-interest-in-sports.html.

On the brighter side, I did find an increase in the keyword “how to”, so perhaps people are trying to find how to do certain things.

What I presented here cannot be taken as the actual image of our society, but it sure makes one think about where we are headed. Maybe I am missing some key fact that could explain the drop in interest in knowledge and learning. Perhaps people use social networks to learn and share knowledge. Social network groups such as those on Google+ allow people to connect and share their topics of interest. These groups and pages drive users to specific blogs and articles. But generally, from what I have seen, I don’t think people use these groups in the way that their creators originally intended.

It seems to me that the interest in these groups is far lower than in those that are concerned about everyday trivial things.

The Flynn effect says that the average intelligence on the planet is increasing. The question is what the relation of the IQ growth and population growth is. Perhaps the population is differentiating. It seems to me that it could indeed be true that “The sum of intelligence on the planet is a constant, the population is growing.”

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