Google Zeitgeist for 2013 Reveals the Year’s Public and Private Yearnings and Fascinations

Life, the universe and everything

Nelson Mandela was Google's No. 1 global search in 2013, followed by the late film actor Paul Walker, Apple's iPhone 5S (suck it, Samsung, how does it feel to be No. 8?), the late TV actor Cory Monteith and the Harlem Shake.

Google's latest effort to chart, catalog and curate our collective zeitgeist is impressively immersive, to say the least. There's a video collage that lets you explore the top 100 searches in no particular order; a global 3-D map of top trends in cities around the world; and the 90-second video below, done in the familiar G-style with soothing white space, clack-clack typing in search boxes and image/music edits designed for maximum emotional impact. Batkid gets the final frame.

I clicked 10 collage images at random, just zipping around with the cursor and not looking at the pictures, and came up with an intriguing mix: Jodi Arias No. 25 … Typhoon No. 14 … Oblivion No. 66 … Kim Kardashian baby No. 44 … Cube World No. 53 … Pacific Rim No. 27 … Jennifer Lawrence No. 23 … Gareth Bale No. 62 … Man of Steel No. 15 … North Korea No. 10. I like how people, places, things and events are weighted on a single scale, mirroring the marvelously creative, chaotic way we tend to index data in our brains.

Earlier this month, Yahoo said Miley Cyrus led its searches for 2013, while Beyoncé topped Bing's ranking of the year's most-searched celebrities—with the British royal birth leading its list of most-searched news stories.

Some commentators try to find deeper meaning, make connections and draw philosophical conclusions about society from such findings. I think it's pretty simple. We're always searching, in every sense of the word. Searching for something, nothing, anything, everything. For information, distraction, inspiration, novelty, friends, family, facts, figures, kicks, titillation. Searching for something more. Something new. Something to add meaning, if only for a few seconds, to the sum total of who and what we are.

Even when we don't type in our own names, we're still basically searching for ourselves. That or the Harlem Shake.

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.
Publish date: December 18, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT