Google released information about the most common searches in 2015. The list reveals what has been part of the public consciousness in the past year.
First, I looked at searches within the U.S. Some topics from the news sparked a lot of searches, from the refugee crisis to Marriage Eqaulity. Some personalities captivated us, like Caitlyn Jenner and Lamar Odom.
I found the question people asked to be revealing. Several of the most common "How to" questions were related to technology. The No. 1 "How to" question was "How to use the new Snapchat update?" A question about upgrading to Windows 10 was No. 5.
Other common questions were how to solve a rubix cube, get legendary marks (this question is related to a computer game called Destiny) and to play "Charlie, Charlie," which seems to be a supernatural game not unlike using an ouija board. Why is Charlie Charlie a common search? It seems like make a video of yourself playing it has become a meme.
Questions that took the form "What is..." were also interesting. The No. 1 question? "What is 0 divided by 0?" I guess Siri gives a funny answer to this one. No. 2? "What is Ashley Madison?" This question is tied to fact that the dating site for married people had a huge data breach this year. Other common questions included "What is Ebola" and "What is ISIS?"
Google has done a nice job using their data to put together a vision of what the last year has been. I'd recommend poking around Google Trends to see things like what kind of questions people asked about the "Black Lives Matter" movement. Google also made an interactive map of police-related deaths in 2015.
Google Trends also shows how the stories of individual people fit into larger questions about our cultural identity. Caitlyn Jenner's story inspired people to ask questions about the transgender community. In their exploration of the Pope's visit to the U.S., Google offers an interactive map of America and shows where people search for certain religions.
After looking through the data for a little while, I was hit with two contradictory feelings. If search reveals what we think about, we think about a lot of silly stuff. Memes. Celebrities. Movies. Gadgets. But it also seems like when people see or read the news, they want to understand it more fully and they go online to do so. We do want to understand the world we live in better, and that is comforting.