The year-end look in the mirror

Times-Herald Editorial Staff
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In case there was any doubt: rest assured, our world still revolves around death and scandal.

The source for this information is the infallible Google.

Every year more people use Google as an all-purpose tool for tracking down instant information.

Most of the year we forget Google keeps records of what we search. Then December comes along and we’re reminded the world’s largest media company can compile that information to create a frighteningly realistic portrait of our society.

Google has been putting together neat little lists of most-searched people, topics and phrases by country.

This list is called Zeitgeist.

The global trends paint a much more positive picture than the Canadian data.

Internationally, former South African president and anti-Apartheid hero Nelson Mandela was the top trending search and most-searched person in 2013. Second on both of those lists was recently deceased actor Paul Walker who died in a fiery car crash.

The top two internationally searched events were the Boston Marathon and Typhoon Haiyan. The top globally searched athlete was Oscar Pistorius, who still faces charges for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Dead actor Cory Monteith was the top searched performing artist after he overdosed on heroin and alcohol.

All of these were news events, but Google just reflects our priorities.

So, when Google Zeitgeist lists Paul Walker as the top American trending topic ahead of the Boston Marathon bombing, it’s not Google’s fault.

Our North American priorities are severely out of whack.Google is simply the mirror we should adjust ourselves in.

For example, Americans also searched for the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) more than the tornado that hit Moore, Okla. and killed two dozen people.

In Canada, Rob Ford was the overall top search and most-searched Canadian. Not for reasons he’d like to convince himself. His nonstop antics and deflections of blame have been discussed at length in newspapers across the country, including this one.

As the Times-Herald said last week in this section, 2013 was a year of distractions.

It’s easy to pick on our society. We are dependent on technology to solve all of our problems. All questions are solved by Google.

The top “What is…” searches are never a highlight. This year, in descending order, the top searches were: what is twerking, fracking, ricin, BBM, molly, Bitcoin, Monsanto, Snapchat and EPO.

Unfortunately for culture, 2013 was the year twerking was taken over by young white females, and made most famous by Miley Cyrus.

We rewarded the cultural appropriation of a traditionally black dance by lauding Cyrus with attention.

It’s a positive note that people were trying to find out about fracking, an issue that is current and relevant. It will only become more important as we learn more about it.

Google’s annual lists are an important way for us to measure the direction our year took us in. Certainly we suffered from information overload and defaulted to the most bizarre stories.

Death and scandal will always dominate the news cycle. It’s not going to change. But they need to have substance. Celebrity deaths and a gaffe-prone, drug smoking mayor with a tendency to be drunk in public are not our most important moments.

Start 2014 by getting informed about things that matter to you and to your community. Conduct yourselves like mature people, even when you’re on the Internet.

Reading entire news stories and not just the headlines is a good way to start.

All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.

Organizations: Google, Boston Marathon, Times-Herald North American Monsanto

Geographic location: Moore, Okla., Canada

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