A look at love, relationships, marriage, and more through the eyes of the world’s most popular search engine.
By now, it is likely that you have derived some form of amusement from the latest Google search feature, Google Autocomplete. Autocomplete uses algorithms to offer a drop box of predicted search suggestions when you begin typing in Google’s search bar. If you are not yet familiar with the Internet pleasantry, which has found its way onto countless humor websites, Facebook statuses, and Twitter feeds, it is certainly a good procrastination tool if nothing else. However, does the world’s most popular search engine have anything to teach us about ourselves and our thoughts on the issues that consume us daily?
Search suggestions provided by Autocomplete range from helpful to bizarre to comedic. Some notable and rather infamous drop box quips include Chuck Norris insights, exaggerated ethnic stereotypes, and the classic “How to,” “Why do,” and “I like to” prompts, which always guarantee a list of obscure and pithy search proposals.
Unsurprisingly, our generation of tech savvy Internet dwellers have remodeled a technology designed to aid us in our Internet searches into another social medium. The number of websites dedicated to Autocomplete and its wide selection of not-so-helpful suggestions are endless and gaining rapid Internet popularity, similar to it’s counterpart, the iPhone Autocorrect.
I decided to do some research on Autocomplete, curious as to how the human mind has so quickly infiltrated this particular design, replacing many normal search predictions with humorous and unconventional suggestions. As it turns out, there are many factors that go into which suggestions appear in the drop box. Mostly, it has to do with the long-term data of previously-searched terms, which does give people the chance to manipulate the search engine by continuously searching the same thing until it appears in the drop box. This explains the overt humor that often appears, but at the same time it validates that the suggestions reflect a common curiosity among people.
Other factors are considered, such as the “freshness layer,” as Google refers to it, which suggests terms that have gained sudden popularity, such as a celebrity divorce or wedding. Suggestions also differ based on location and language, though, overall, Autocomplete appears to be a functioning democracy, and the people seem to have a big say in what appears in the search box.
All search-engine joking aside, if Autocomplete does, for the most part, reflect the majority of searches done by people, then what can it teach us about people’s thoughts on love, relationships, marriage, and other significant topics other than Chuck Norris? After all, Google is the most widely used search engine in the world, so, in a way, Autocomplete is like an unofficial (very unofficial) survey on all imaginable topics.
I made the decision to gather a handful of search prompts that dealt with the themes most discussed by the Good Men Project: love, relationships, men, women, marriage, and parents. The trend that appeared in each search box was striking, resonating a negativity that only further justifies why such topics have always been, and always will be, at the forefront of cultural discussions.
It did not take long to realize that each search would culminate with a list of saddening concerns regarding the initial search term. To be fair, people are more likely to seek help and information on a subject of concern. We search for jobs, we don’t search for unemployment; but at the same time the consistency of negative search suggestions made each topic seem jaundiced and scary. Searching for “Love” on Google does not make love seem so appealing. It makes marriage sound impossible and portrays parenting as violent.
It made me see Autocomplete as a microscope, amplifying our lifestyle concerns until they are magnified to the point that it is all we see, literally. I decided to approach the matter from a much broader standpoint and was as equally surprised by the results.
When searching the general term “why do,” the first proposed search was “why do men cheat.” Mixed right in with such nonchalant questions as “why do leaves change color” and “why do we yawn.” The fact that the idea of male infidelity is among the top searched affairs (no pun intended) on the Internet brings up a seemingly endless loop of questions involving gender assumptions, male portrayal in society, sexuality, and monogamy.
Though, setting detailed analysis aside, the surprising popularity of “why do men cheat” simply proves the matter relevant. It is the cultural relevance of issues such as marriage, relationships, cheating, abuse, and love that allow such concepts as the Good Men Project and other socially aware outlets to even exist, and discussions through open forums to flourish. Autocomplete offers no advice or answers, rather it is just another observation in our short lived history, and at most a testament to the fact that as different as we may think we are, the same problems haunt us while the same hope tends to guide us.
At the end of the day Autocomplete and Google have no real say in human interaction. If anything, the trend of negativity that revolves around such personal and humanistic subjects is evidence that we are trying and thinking, or at least existing. Love will never be perfected, and relationships will never have guidelines. Marriages will prosper, and others will fail. It is the way of the world and the unpredictability of human nature. For now we can only experience, learn, and, of course, search for our sorrows on Google. At least we know we are not alone.