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Opinion

Google answers life questions

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April 11, 2008

The Internet, as many of you know, is a place brimming with innovation and creativity. Our glorious benefactor, the Google, is itself a company that makes mountains of cash designing breakthrough software and services.

A few months ago I discovered a great Google spin-off tool called “Google Suggest.” This fascinating flavor of Google looks mostly like the normal Google search screen, except that when you begin typing, the search field drops and displays the most commonly searched phrases.

For instance, typing “Why do” will display searches like “Why do cats purr?” or “Why do we yawn?” and so on.

Google Suggest is effective at showing what questions average people ask Google.

Our connected culture is turning more and more to Google for answering all of life’s questions, no matter how small or large.

Though surely an unscientific measure of the public’s surfing activity, Google Suggest does have the power to reveal our common concerns, worries and problems.

For instance, many people may wonder why cats purr, but Google Suggest informs us that millions of people also want to know why men cheat, why Americans don’t vote, why Easter changes dates and why Buddhists eat garlic.

And apparently, tens of thousands have wondered “Why does Flavor Flav wear a clock?” and “Why don’t French women get fat?” Do these two inquiries reveal a dual addiction to trashy reality TV and self-pitying stabs at weight loss? Google Suggest suggests that it does.

Typing in the phrase “Why am I” reveals a drop-down menu steeped in personal tragedy: “Why am I always tired?, single?, always cold?, depressed?, not losing weight?, still single?”

These questions paint a disheartening picture, and I’m glad my personal relationship with Google doesn’t entail searching for tips on how to stay warm. Boring!

Other inquiries reveal our most common ambitions: how to kiss, how to make money and how to get pregnant.

Over the last few years, we’ve become very intimate with that little Google search bar. I found a host of questions demonstrating our willingness to lay our intentions—legal or not—on the line: is it legal to marry your first cousin?, to buy marijuana seeds?, to unlock an iPhone?

I could spend hours just typing random words into Google Suggest and seeing what it comes up with. Some searches are funny, some are weird, some are shocking and many are sad in their own way.

Go check out Google Suggest. Type in your deepest, darkest questions and see how many people want the same answers you do from the great and powerful wizards of Google.

Joe Hager is a student at UW-River Falls.