In charts: What Google searches reveal about India’s pandemic years – Moneycontrol

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Google is a noun, a verb and a portal. Keywords we punch in out of curiosity, are direct confessions of our insecurities and desires. In the three years starting 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic took over our lives, many of us turned to it to ask questions such as “when will the pandemic get over”, and “number of Covid-19 cases in India”.
The global reality of living through the pandemic years, had a shared vocabulary. Terms such as lockdown, quarantine, asymptomatic, social-distancing were Googled and adapted quickly into behaviours.
Google aggregates search trends by time and location, and offers a yearly wrap-up. These searches highlight the most looked up movies, recipes, people and events, as well as the most-common questions, starting with “what is”, “how to” and things “near me”. Google search trends are indexed to 100, where 100 is the maximum search interest in the term or topic in the selected time period and location.
The realisation that “people sometimes don’t so much query Google as confide in it”, makes the search-engine a great source of information, author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz wrote in his 2017 bestselling book, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. “The everyday act of typing a word or phrase into a compact, rectangular white box leaves a small trace of truth that, when multiplied by millions, eventually reveals profound realities”, he went on to confirm Google’s potential to unveil our society to us.
As we bring in a new calendar, we take a quick look back on what changed and what stayed, through Google’s search history in India.
Search to settle a restless mind and body
In the list of conversation-openers and topics to fill silences, “Did you do yoga with Adriene?” came in handy. Each time Covid went on high tide, searches for online yoga surfed along. As the year ends, unrolling the mat to experience time slowing down, in the company of a screen, is a shared memory. The other wonder was the word game, Wordle. It was the most searched term this year, globally, taking off like the most infectious Covid spell. But its popularity was short-lived. The simpler and humbler board game, Ludo, will continue its stay among us, even though the popular pandemic online game, Among Us, may not.
Food can heal
The jury on teh pandemic’s first global trend – the hand-foamed Dalgona coffee – is out. It was a flash in the pan, and endless whisking by hand became tiresome! But queries on how to make Kadha, the immunity booster, kept coming up through the worst two years. The Panipuri urge is the most revealing of all, craved for the most in the first and strictest lockdown. We soon realised some recipes are best left to experts.
Most searched in 2022
Lifted spirits
Whenever spirits came down, search for delivery of alcohol went up. The search for home delivery of groceries was like a javelin when the first lockdown was announced. Supply chains and technology soon came to our rescue. It was no longer a search on people’s minds this year, as the many ten-minute grocery delivery apps flooding the market yearn for attention.
Bringing back the normal
The prohibition of gatherings started before the pandemic. Protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act were restricted by Section 144 of CrPC in early 2020. With the first wave of Coronavirus evicted, protest search returned, hoping gatherings may become possible again. In this year and the last, protests continued, while issues changed. Farmer protests in 2021 and the Agneepath scheme in 2022 got people searching. Anxieties also took over. Parents and children asked “when will school reopen”, each time lockdowns eased. Search for therapy and therapists rose, as did isolation and grief, its picture resembling that of a lifeline.
Most searched in 2022 3
Also read: Healing Space | Pandemic relationships: Communicating in the dark
Travel bans
Every time a Covid wave struck, people went stationary. Search for flight tickets came down as Covid peaked, every pandemic year, including this one. Search for train tickets peaked just once towards the end of the first wave in 2020, when restrictions eased up, a reminder of the migration crisis that took place in parallel.
Most searched in 2022 4
Workplace goes digital
To earn a livelihood, many of us no longer needed to step out and return home. It was logging in and logging out. Google search to download Zoom appeared for the first time in 2020 and has stayed since, ascending every time with Covid. The search for an office space, shrank most in 2020, and less so in the coming years. It followed a lub-dub rhythm, as if people are still making up their minds to set up or not, a space that is phygital.
Most searched in 2022 5
Also read: Healing Space | Zoom dysmorphia: How overusing your filter is harming you
The job switch
Distress from an unemployment crisis in the informal sector is tough to measure. But layoffs in the formal sector were a big search anxiety throughout 2020. Many companies let-go of employees and announced permanent work-from-home. Layoff anxieties have reappeared just as this year ends, with global companies like Amazon sacking employees. The only trend that has been less sporadic is the search for remote jobs. Searches for remote jobs are climbing, an indication that they are here to stay.
Most searched in 2022 6
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