At this point we’ve all more or less accepted the fact that Google and Facebook are closely monitoring, analyzing, and selling off even the most intimate details of our online lives. It’s a small price to pay for seamless integration across devices and endless cat video compilations – plus some of that metadata actually makes its way back to the public, allowing us to observe fascinating trends and keep our fingers on the pulse of the global zeitgeist.
To that end, Google’s recently published Year in Search 2016 gives us a pretty interesting window into how the worst year in recent memory played out on the interwebs, with a list of global trending topics broken down into subcategories like “Consumer Tech,” “People,” and “TV Shows.” Plus, as a handy tool, Google also gives us the opportunity to break these topics down by country, revealing something like the collective digital soul of nations across the globe, from Canada and Australia to Egypt and Vietnam.
So, we went ahead and dug into the handful of Latin American countries for which there was measurable data and found some interesting tendencies. Understandably, in nearly every case there was a marked preoccupation with some of the globe’s most pressing questions, where topics like the US elections and Brexit shared space along more regional concerns like the earthquake in Ecuador and the Zika virus. But there were also some curious national quirks that we’ve broken down for you below. But before you leap to judgment, just take a moment to think back on your own Google search history. We’ve all been there.
At first glance, one might think istmeños were satisfying an unhealthy curiosity with a #2-ranked search like “What happens when you wash your hair with Coca Cola?” But it seems the responsibility lies with British actress and model Suki Waterhouse, who shared her bombshell beauty secret earlier this year. Still, it’s somehow telling that Panamanians were more inspired by this questionable tip than any other country in Latin America.
Whatever the case, Panamanians also showed off their artistic side with the #1 ranked “What is drawing?” (“Qué es dibujo?”), indicating that the steamy Central American nation of 4 million may be on the verge of some sort of artistic awakening.
While Peruvians apparently had a bad luck year in matters of the heart – immortalized in the #7 search “How to make him/her love me again” – the real red flag here has to be #4: “Cómo hacer perritos?” This, of course, has no clear meaning: did they want to know how to breed puppies, or how to make hot dogs? Or was this connected to some twisted genetic laboratory experiments? Peruvians, please clarify in the comments.
Unsurprisingly, Colombians dedicated much of their Googling to the peace referendum that was tragically shot down this year amidst unprecedented voter abstention. But between historic peace accords and an inexplicable fixation on Harley Quinn, Colombians turned to Google en masse to answer one burning question: “How do I make a lamp with popsicle sticks?” which came in sixth place in the “How To” section.
Of course, we had to look it up ourselves – and turns out it’s actually pretty friggin’ dope. Thanks for the tip, Colombia.
Argentines are a cultured bunch, so it makes sense that their top Google searches showed concern with global social and political issues like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and vulture funds. But when it comes to more mundane “How to” questions, an interesting pattern begins to emerge. Indeed, five of the top 10 questions in this category concerned recipes for dishes like tortas fritas, buñuelos, and panqueques; while the #2 search was “How to lose belly fat?” Argentines: looks like you got your answer right there.
Photo: Al Seib for Getty Images
Puerto Rico’s had a rough year, and searches like the #4 ranked “What happens if you don’t pay your mortgage?” are a heartbreaking testament to this hardship. But other top-ranked searches like “How do you play Powerball?” and “How to make a good luck amulet for money?” may point to a need for more active political engagement from struggling Boricuas.
Still, Puertorros clearly take time for some deep philosophical musings, embodied in question like “How does noise affect the planet?” which came in at #3, and the #9-ranked head-scratcher “What happens if the earth stops spinning?”
And Costa Rica officially wins Google 2016 with #2 ranked “What happens if I insert fiber optic cable into my body?” We’ll just leave it at that.