If Google searches are a window into what Americans are really thinking about, then millions of us were focused on a daily online word game developed by a New York-based software engineer.
The impact of the term, Wordle, the most-searched term in 2022, is what surprised Simon Rogers, trends data team lead at Google, the most about this year’s data.
“All the top trending definitions are related to Wordles and the effect it had on our data can not be overstated,” Rogers told VOA in an email.
The top five most popular Google searches in 2022 — Wordle, Election results, Betty White, Queen Elizabeth and Bob Saget — also focused on politics and famous people who died this year.
With 92% of the search engine market share globally, Google is the dominant way Americans seek information about the world.
“Google searches are reflective of what we really care about,” Rogers says. “It tends to reflect what we really care about with an honesty you don’t find in any other data set.”
The top news searches in 2022 were: Election results, Queen Elizabeth passing and Ukraine. People also wanted to know how to pronounce Qatar and Kyiv; and about things like gas prices, COVID tests and voting that were nearest to them. They also sought information on how to help Ukraine, Ukrainian refugees, abortion rights and Uvalde (the scene of a mass U.S. school shooting in Texas).
“While we may expect the worst or be cynical about human motives, that’s not what the data shows,” Rogers says. “We want to help the people of Ukraine or host refugees. We want to help our friends if they have depression and we want to donate to good causes. That’s all reflected in the data.”
Rogers says there were other themes that struck him about the 2022 search data.
“It was an incredibly intense year with really big events that were all reflected in the way we searched,” he says. “The midterms [elections], for example, were actually the top searched midterms of all time. But there were also searches that really spoke to the theme of change or improvement. People searched for ‘jobs that help’ more than ‘jobs that travel’, for instance.”
In 2021, there was some focus on COVID-19 vaccines, stimulus checks and people like Gabby Petito, Kyle Rittenhouse and Brian Laundrie – all of whom were associated with violence and death.
“Last year, it was really about coming through the pandemic and learning how to venture out again. This year is about the next stage of that journey,” Rogers says. “While [Google] Trends doesn’t predict the future, given this year’s theme around change, next year we might start to see the ways that people have changed.”