The Decay of American Culture Illustrated by Google 2015 Search Trends

It seems that every generation in the United States perceives that the present situation is the worst it has ever been. People have been talking about how corrupt, sinful and immoral society is since before the founding of our country. This is true of other nations as well. There seems to be this built-in perception that society is in a constant state of decline with regard to the many aspects surrounding morality and ethics. We all know that technology and medical advances are improving and have improved with each passing generation. Likewise, we understand that access to essential life-sustaining items like food, water and shelter are also about as promising as they’ve ever been.

But what about our hearts? What about our minds? What about our values and the implications that come from our manner of living?

I was fascinated today when I went to Google to search for more information to plan my next trip to Nicaragua when I saw, “See what the world searched for in 2015” under the search bar.

This was really an awesome link title that, as it was designed to do, got my attention. So I clicked on it. I scrolled through the lists of top searches and recalled seeing or hearing about each of the items on the list at various times during the year. Then it occurred to me that the most basic, depraved, violent and superficial items were the ones with the most searches. We’re not talking about clicks here, we are talking searches. “Searches” means that someone typed in the words that led to a story on the list. I am not here to pass judgement. I am not a social scientist with years of expertise and piles of valid and reliable information on the matter, but it seems to me that something is amiss. Instead of going on and on about the topic at hand, let me use the screenshots I took straight from Google to illustrate my point. They are at the bottom of this article.

Here are the big search stories from most to least. Note the month of each.

Story # of Searches Month Some Thoughts
1. Paris Terrorist Attacks 897+ million Nov. This makes perfect sense. This event was horrific and the world was gripped with a want for information. I searched for this myself in order to learn what in the world was going on.
2. Adele’s Year 439+ million Nov. Adele is such an amazing talent, why wouldn’t millions of us want to know more about her? The only thing that makes this sad is that we found migrant families escaping war 17x less important than her.
3. The Oscar’s 406+ million Feb. This is a major entertainment event no doubt. Like Adele’s ranking, the thing that makes this sad is the type of stories we had far less interest in throughout 2015.
4. Caitlyn Jenner 366+ million June The dad in a shallow and materialistic (and sad) reality show decided to come out and admit that he believes he is a woman. I have no issue with this regarding him/her personally. The issue I have is that we as a society are so interested in this type of story and searched for it so often that it ranks as more popular than all those below is very telling about the values our society holds.
5. Mayweather vs. Pacquiao 216+ million May A long awaited, multi-national title match is certainly a thing we are going to search for. But the fact that 26x fewer people searched for the discovery that there may be water on Mars is pretty interesting.
6. Royals win World Series 144+ million Nov. Another amazing sporting event with world-wide implications. I get it, this is the big time! I just want to know how Caitlyn Jenner became twice as popular as the sport of baseball?
7. Farewell to Stars in 2015 123+ million Feb. We said goodbye to a lot of amazingly talented and loved stars in 2015. I can see how all of them added together compiled a search quantity that is this high.
8. World Cup 113+ million July Soccer grows in popularity every year in the United States. It had so many games and involved so many countries, many of which have huge populations of citizens in the United States. This makes sense to me. I’m still puzzled to find that Adele, Caitlyn Jenner and the Oscars are all this much more popular than soccer and baseball put together. Wow! Mind blown!
9. Same Sex Marriage 108+ million April This is a very big issue for so many Americans and I can see how this would be such a popular search item. I’m not very concerned with who anyone else marries, but I do understand that some people make it their business to care about what other people do in their personal lives.
10. A Princess is born 105+ million May I actually did not know this. I find modern royal families to be somewhat of an odd institution. It’s kind of like wearing a pocket watch – it’s nice and does the job and people may want to know more about why I have it, but they don’t really want it for themselves and I could very easily lose the watch at this very moment and my life and ability to find the correct time would not be adversely affected in the least. To each their own! If I grew up under a modern monarchy, I may find it kinda cool too.
11. Nepal Earthquake 85+ million Apr. This is where everything starts to get pathetic. 9,000 people were killed and more than 23,000 were wounded in this earthquake. Homes, towns, lives destroyed, literally crushed beneath tons of rock and debris and we care enough to search for information about this April earthquake 10x less than we did about the Paris terrorist attacks that happened just a month ago in November. Both are terribly sad events, but this tells me a lot about our desire to have a little excitement, controversy and entertainment along with our tragedy.
12. Cecil the Lion killed 32+ million July 32+ million of us decided that we were more interested in a lion being killed than we are in the fact that Cuba and the US are in talks, that we have a deal with world leaders and the Iranians, that the Pope came to the United States and that water might have been found on Mars! Just wow!
13. Cuba and USA extend talks 27+  million July I searched the heck out of this one because not only do I want to go to Cuba, but I also want to see the people of that nation have access to the things we have access to here. After looking at this list, I think more of what we have may be more of a curse than a blessing for the good people of Cuba.
14. Migrant crisis 23+ million All Notice that this topic has been relevant all year long while the others have been available for much less time. Adele and the Oscars are both at least 17x more important to us than are the lives, homes and cultures of the many people in crisis throughout the world. People are migrating to places of safety for many reasons, but all to have a better life. Sure, terrorist organizations are using these situations to spread their ideologies, but what about those that are simply trying to live in safety with their families? Our culture is less interested in helping the masses than it is to ensure we reject the radicals. In the end we reject them all and create resentment worldwide. Our nation was built on the acceptance of migrants in search of a better life. Historically we have been a nation of principles and laws. When exercised, those can deter the threats of a few while allowing for the betterment of many.
15. Iran nuclear deal 20+ million July We have a deal that could keep Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. Regardless of what you think about the specifics of the deal, I am amazed to find that we think Caitlyn Jenner is 20x more interesting than a nation getting nuclear capability that it has promised to use against us and our allies.
16. The Pope visits America 14+  million Sept. And everyone smiles and says, “that’s nice” and goes on about our lives doing whatever makes us happy without adopting a single thing this man espouses as needed to improve our world today. The fact that the leader of the largest (and in modern times, peaceful) religious organization on Earth got 14+ million searches while the Oscars got about 64x more searches is pretty scary to me.

And here are some visuals that Google produced for the 2015 search trends page. I have used these to formulate the list above.

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And there we are! The biggest search result trends of 2015 from Google itself! I love the United States of America and am proud to be a citizen of this great country. I do however find it troubling to see the things our society as a whole enjoys and seeks in order to fill our days with the types of things we value most. This list is a very interesting look into the mentality, preferences, values and impulses that make up our collective national interests. It is abundantly clear that we as a nation need constant, emotionally-charged, dramatic events to keep our attention and that we shy away from anything authentically pure, serious, humble and sincere. We prefer to see the glitz and glam of an awards show or a man turned woman over the stark reality of a city in ruins or people whose lives are being shattered by war and in need of help. We prefer the basic, the superficial and the fleeting and avoid any interaction with the type of things that force us to look inward on our own fickle and depraved nature.

I wish you the best my friends and pray for our great nation and for its leadership and for its people. I pray for you and I pray for me.

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