Google searches are a reflection of what worries a large part of the planet's population. 2020 was an atypical year. And so have the queries in the search engine. If year after year meteorological phenomena such as Hurricane Irma or Dorian lead the rankings , the launch of the iPhone or series such as Game of Thrones , since the pandemic began and until February 2021 the main concern of the millions of users who use each day the search engine has been the coronavirus. Germany is the country in which this word has been searched the most, according to Google. Hong Kong, Singapore, and France – in that order – have been particularly concerned about "masks." To the United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Ireland, the “vaccine”. And to the United States, Uruguay and Spain, “unemployment”.
In other words, Spain is the third country in the world in which the word “unemployment” has been searched the most on Google. It is also the ninth in which more people have typed in the search engine "coronavirus". “What is the coronavirus” was the question that Spanish Internet users asked themselves the most in the first weeks of 2020. As of March, what has worried them the most is “how long does the coronavirus last”. In the last three months, the number of inquiries about when the pandemic will end has also increased notably. Among the seven questions that Spaniards have sought the most, there are also how to know if you are infected, how long the coronavirus lasts on clothes and where the SARS-CoV-2 comes from.
Interest in the coronavirus in the world has been such in the last few months it has exceeded searches on "time". Simon Rogers, data editor at Google News Lab, explains in a panel discussion with a group of international journalists that time is often one of the most searched terms on Google. "It is quite rare for any type of health condition to rise above the weather," he says. Blame this change in trends to the fact that the coronavirus has not only affected health, but "is everywhere": "It has affected the economy, music, television or life" .
In recent months " a lot of misinformation has circulated and people were desperate to find reliable information ”. Users have turned to Google mainly to know the "update", the "symptoms" and the "news" of the coronavirus. Among the 10 most searched queries related to COVID-19, there are also "statistics", "cases", "death toll", "maps", information about the "vaccine" and data from the "CDC ”(US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) .
What people around the world have searched on Google has not just been a reflection of their interests and behaviors, but has at times provided valuable information about the disease itself. For example, "loss of smell" was a trend in Google searches in March 2020. Currently the World Health Organization or CDC includes loss of smell among the possible symptoms of COVID-19 and is have conducted multiple studies on this. But back then the scientific evidence was limited. An article published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings magazine concludes that Internet searches can be useful for monitoring new infectious diseases such as COVID-19. This information could be used, according to the authors, to detect new outbreaks and be prepared.
Rogers mentions that some researchers have also used the data to predict what it means that many users search the Internet for the word “unemployment” and what economic consequences it may entail. "For example, people can start looking at how to apply for unemployment benefits before actually filing," he says. Searches for "unemployment" in Spain reached record highs in March and April 2020, after the Government decreed home confinement. In those months, Spaniards mainly searched for “erte unemployment benefit”, “apply for unemployment online ” or “application for unemployment benefit”.
From “what day is it” to “how to meet people”
In the last months of the pandemic crisis, the authorities have repeatedly recommended that the population stay at home to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. In this context and with the rise of teleworking, some people find it difficult to differentiate if it is Tuesday or Thursday. Or what is the same, on what day do they live. During the pandemic, users have searched Google for “what day is it” more than ever.
As they spend more time at home, many have turned to the search engine to learn how to do new things: “cloth masks”, “disinfectant of hands ”,“ Dalgona coffee ”,“ sourdough bread ”or“ pizza dough ”. Home confinement has also led multiple Internet users to search for “series marathons”, “how to meet people” or “jokes to parents”. And without forgetting about comfort. Searches for “sweat pants” have also reached all-time highs.
Among the searches highlighted during the pandemic, there are some that, depending on where you live, may seem curious. For example, "why do people howl?" If in Spain for several weeks the population had an appointment on the balconies at eight o'clock in the afternoon to honor the health workers with applause, in Colorado (United States) some citizens recognized the work of these professionals with howls, according to the Denver chain 7.
In addition to worrying about COVID-19, users have also turned to Google for some optimism. Internet users have consulted the words "God", "happiness", "empathy" and "hope" more than ever. In Spain, during the first weeks of the pandemic, l Google searches as "good news" they soared. In fact, they reached historical highs since the search engine collected this type of data (January 2004) .
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