So uh, 2020 happened. A year we’re all ready to leave behind. A year we’re all willing to forget and pretend just didn’t happen. Because let’s face it, it wasn’t a pretty one.
In case you forgot, the year started out with looming threats of World War 3. I can remember waking up, getting on Twitter, and seeing people genuinely scared of getting drafted to potentially fight in one of the world's deadliest wars. Scared of fighting a battle they didn’t want in the first place.
Now that I say that, that pretty much describes the past 12 months rather well. It felt like a battle to just stay alive. It seemed like every week, there was a new development that made us all lose a little more faith in humanity, at least for me there was. And when things aren’t looking bad, many of us turn to our friends for answers, but when we’re all experiencing the same thing, it’s hard to find answers. That’s when we turn to the internet.
In 2020, there were literally trillions of searches on Google. And of those trillions of trillions of searches, some were asking “how,” others were asking “where,” but an overwhelming majority of questions asked on Google started with “why.”
If there was one word to explain 2020, that sums it up perfectly.
Stress was without a doubt at an all-time high for many of us. For many of us around the world, we were worried about keeping ourselves afloat. With a new virus spreading around the world, many of us wanted to know “why is it called COVID-19” and what exactly that meant. And in case you’re wondering, in COVID-19, “CO” stands for corona, VI stands for virus, and D stands for disease. But there are more important things than deciphering just the name, we needed to know how to stay safe. “Where to buy toilet paper?”, “Where to buy face masks?”, and “Where to buy hand sanitizer?” were among some of the most searched “where” questions of 2020.
As we top over 70 million total coronavirus cases and the death toll pushes over 1.5 million, it’s good to reflect on the year behind us, because there won’t be another one like it. #COVID19 was tweeted over 400 million times this year alone. We used the couch emoji 40% more, and we probably sat on it 4,000% more. Because let’s be real, after months and months in quarantine, days started getting really repetitive. It’s shown in the fact that we asked Google “What day is it?” more than ever before. We got bored, we ran out of things to do, and we needed entertainment, and so it’s no surprise that “Where to buy a PS5'' was up there as well. And uh, to be honest, I still can’t find one.
There was a lot of downtime in 2020. A lot of really impressive and entertaining shows such as The Queen’s Gambit were released and made us find interest in things we may not normally enjoy, but then there were also things like Tiger King, Joe Exotic, and Carole Baskin which… also somehow made us find interest in them.
Things turned digital, like, everything. If you were working an office job, you ended up doing most things from home. If you went to school, chances are you woke up everyday to a Zoom class, and that kind of sucks. Many are paying tens of thousands of dollars to go to college, but yet are spending some of the so called “best years of their lives” in their own bedrooms. And pretty quickly, we all collectively realized something, 2020 sucks.
Not a lot made sense last year. Things changed, and they changed really fast. Life was as normal as could be, and before you know, it changed in the blink of an eye. For example, if you’re an Australian, you know this all too well.
A lot happened last year, and it’s felt like much longer than just 12 months. 2020 began with the entire continent of Australia slowly burning away. The 2019 to 2020 Australian bushfire season was far beyond what we’ve seen in a long, long time. It became known as the “black summer,” and ended up burning over 50 million acres of land across the entire continent. Thousands of buildings and homes were destroyed, but the majority of victims here weren’t human. Over 3 billion vertebrates were impacted by these fires, and it’s thought that many species were driven completely to extinction. We can’t really be sure, as so much has been turned to complete ash. It’s impact is irreversible.
Your impact, your legacy is all you can leave behind once you’re gone, and 2020 took away too many of some of the most impressive and talented humans on the planet. Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Pop Smoke, and many, many more. We lost athletes, actors, political leaders, artists, and for many of us, family.
It doesn’t seem fair. It goes to show how little control we have over things that happen in the world. We have no control over others lives, and to an extent, we don’t have that much control over our own either. It seems like yesterday that it was January and we were all googling “what is coronavirus” for the first time.
But even though we aren’t always in control, many of us like to help when things get hard. We like to give back, and so searches like “How to help Yemen?”, “How to help Beirut?”, “How to help someone having a panic attack?”, “How to donate to Black Lives Matter?”, and “How to help the Australian fires?” were some of the most searched “how” questions from the entire year. People all around the world actually searched “How to help...” more than ever before. People searched “How to donate...” over twice as much as “How to save money?” despite the fact that millions around the world have lost their jobs or sources of income since the pandemic began.
A lot of 2020’s changes weren’t that great, but many times, change can be a good thing. In 2020, some of the most googled people included Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Kim Jong Un. One of the top searches overall from the entire year was, “election results”, and in the midst of a pandemic, people were looking for who would be leading them out of this hole. They were wondering “When will lockdown end?”, “When can I go back to work?”, and “Where is my stimulus check?” People wanted to get back to living, not just existing.
A year full of pain, a year of boredom, a year of solitude has made us think, and it has also inspired change in millions of people. Questions such as “How to workout at home?”, “How to cut your own hair?”, and “How to invest in stocks?” were relatively popular as well. It seems that many people want to come out of quarantine better people overall, physically, mentally, and fiscally. Coronavirus has shown the world what it’s like to be down, and people have decided that how we’ve been living isn’t enough. Surprisingly, the question “How to change the world?” was searched over 2 times as much as “How will we go back to normal?”, which really shows how eager the population is in helping form a better future for us all. People were loud, they made their voices heard, “protest near me” was searched more across the United States than ever before, and for good reasons.
One of those reasons being they saw red vent but they’re saying you’re the impostor. Even though we’re all stuck at home on our computers, that doesn’t stop the fun we get from arguing with each other. “What is Among Us” was one of the most searched questions of the entire year, and rightfully so. Among Us came out in 2018 and averaged about 8 daily players… and then 2020 happened. On August 31st, it peaked at a daily peak of 438,524 players. We play games to pass the time, and so do I, it works really, really well. I get on my PC, hop on for a few games, and before I know it, it’s 4:00am and I’ve done nothing with my day. People have had more time than ever before to game, and the most searched games of 2020 include “Among Us”, “Fall Guys”, “Valorant” which I happen to be hardstuck Immortal in please help me.
We’re all looking for an escape from reality, but with how 2020 was, you really only had the internet, and so people had to get creative. People were interested in things like “virtual field trips”, “virtual museum tours”, “virtual raves”, and even more. In fact, some people's love lives actually just couldn’t wait for COVID to go away, and so “virtual marriages” were up there in the search results as well.
Speaking of love, I love how Google releases this data annually, because it really goes to show how we function as a society; how our collective thoughts form and how we all continue to learn more and more, day by day, year by year. It’s a running list of the events we as a species come across, and how we feel about them. Just because our society slows down a bit, at the end of the day, the Earth is still spinning, the Sun continues to rise and set, and the Moon returns to show it’s face each and every night.
Whether it was searching for the number of daily COVID cases in the area, searching for various forms of entertainment to keep us busy, finding your soulmate, or just checking on which old guy is going to be running the country for the next 4 years, we searched more than ever before, and the internet was the most valuable resource for keeping all of us up to date with this reality. We learned, we taught, we laughed, we cried, but most importantly of all, we made it out alive.
We were in it together, and we escaped together.
And so, I’ll leave you with a question, “What has 2020 taught us?” because to be honest with you, I don’t even know where to begin.