In 2014, we typed literally trillions of search terms into Google.
The keywords we search for tell us some really interesting things about the world — and one another. I’ll just say it: 2014 was kind of a bummer. And Google’s most-searched terms of the year reflected our collective mood. Sure, there were high points, like the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and everyone being turned into braided Frozen fangirls overnight, but there were also many more sad, serious and frightening topics on our minds.
Here’s the list of the 10 most-searched terms on Google in 2014, and fair warning — many of them are kind of a downer.
10. Sochi Olympics
Plagued by controversy, the Sochi Olympics captured the world’s attention primarily for all the wrong reasons. Sochi was offensively expensive, woefully executed and mired in scandal ranging from human rights violations to bribery. Sadly, in the lead-up to the Sochi Olympic Games, these headlines often overshadowed the athletes and led many to contemplate a boycott in defiance of the Russian government. All this scandal added up to a whole lot of interest.
You don’t have to be the parent of a toddler to appreciate the sheer dominance of Elsa and Anna on our public consciousness in 2014 (but I am, and I’ve seen Frozen so many times I could cry). Time to just “Let It Go” already. Please. No. More. Frozen. No more Frozen dolls, hair ties, dresses, T-shirts with Olaf; no more Elsa cupcakes or those ridiculous high-heeled boots from the Disney Store.
The dudes that make the Taliban look like a reasonable alternative, ISIS knows how to grab a headline. Taking to the internet to hack off the heads of innocent foreign aid workers might be subhuman and despicable, but it sure will get you searched on Google. This year ISIS has emerged as the first terrorist group to understand that getting everyone’s attention just requires a video so viral that everyone will stop and take notice. Mission accomplished.
7. Conchita Wurst
Artist, drag queen, bearded lady, internet sensation, LGBT community hero — all could be used to describe Austrian Conchita Wurst, who won the Eurovision Song Competition with “Rise Like a Phoenix.” The video was published on YouTube in March 2014 and has more than 18.5 million views to date.
6. Flappy Bird
Developed by a Vietnamese mobile game developer, Flappy Bird rose to prominence through the game’s undisputed addictive qualities. Although the game looks deceptively 2-D and rudimentary, creator Dong Nguyen claimed at one point the game was earning $50,000 per day on advertising alone. Adding to the mystique of the game, Nguyen, feeling guilty about the hours the world had wasted on his game and no longer enjoying his overnight success, did the unthinkable — deleted the game.
5. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
If you missed the ice-bath-in-a-bucket frenzy that was late summer’s go-to social media play — the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge — you won’t believe how one simple idea created an army of activists overnight. To date, the viral video social awareness campaign has drawn plenty of heat, created some hilarious internet moments, but most important, raised a whopping $115 million to fight ALS.
4. Malaysia Airlines
Image: Lexi Jones/WENN.com
This company suffered not just one but two unthinkable tragedies this year, which played out like a terrible movie right in front of our eyes. First was the chilling — and still unsolved — disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in March of 2014. There’s still no trace of the flight or its passengers. Unbelievably, just four months later, another of its jets, flight 17, was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, killing everyone on board. Between the twin disasters for the airline in 2014, it’s no wonder the name has gotten quite a bit of Google action.
Image: CDC Global via Flickr
Nothing gets people’s attention like good old freak-out panic. This year’s Ebola epidemic is the largest in history and continues to claim thousands of lives, with new infections monthly across West Africa. Aside from the disease’s catastrophic effect in Africa, travelers to the West also carried the disease as far as the U.S., where there were two reported cases and one death this year. People took to Google to search for everything from the latest news to recommendations on how to protect themselves from Ebola infection.
2. World Cup
Early this summer, the entire universe gathered around screens to bask in the Brazilian World Cup. A big upset of hometown fave Brazil and win by Germany, and a gathering of the biggest stars on the planet, from Ronaldo to Beckham, were on full hunky display. Even the U.S. made a decent showing. It all added up to a big, fat Google goal.
1. Robin Williams
Like the newspaper and town square of the 20th century, the internet has become a place to meet and grieve together as a group. This year, when the world lost Robin Williams, people Googled for answers and mourned a hero who touched millions of lives.