I love a good web search. I don’t mean a search that brings good results, I mean a good search query, one that gives you a good look into the soul of the searcher. That’s what is so great about the tool in Google that suggests ways to complete a search after you’ve typed the first few words of your search. Type in ‘how to make a,’ and Google will intuit that you may be trying to ask ‘how to make a diaper cake.’ Type in ‘what is wrong with,’ and Google will helpfully guess that you are trying to figure out what is wrong with either yourself, your car, or Seal’s face. Start with “how do you get a man” and Google will assume that you’re either searching for how to get a man to marry you, or how to get a manaphy in Pokemon ranger. There are two standout searches beginning with “Why can’t they. . . ” “Why can’t they find a cure for cancer,” and “Why can’t they sing in the Big Brother house.” These are important topics, and Google is there to help you explore them. (For a really fun exploration of how stupid people and smart people get fittingly different results, see this Slate article.)
The elusive Pokemon Manaphy. Even Google can’t help you find this guy.
I used to run a website that dealt with some Mormon-related political topics. Hands down the best part of running that website was looking at the analytics, which showed me the various searches people would type in that would bring them to my site. Things like “Is Brian Williams Mormon?” (the answer is no) and “Katie Couric IS Mormon” (the answer is this is not a question); and “massacre porn” (what?) and “hot Mormons” (absolutely) and “Nigeria pros and cons in bullet points” (that’s my other blog) and “never trust a Mormon.” (duh). By far the best search I ever got on that site was “Mormon body odor.” Nice to see that someone’s on the case tracking down those stinky, stinky Mormons. If only we could solve the problem with Catholic plantar fasciitis.
The best part of these things is that they let you imagine whatever you want to about all those crazy, hopeful, confused people out there doing Google searches. I love to picture the angry grandma in Milwaukee, new to the Internet, asking “who is my . . . Congressman,” while somewhere in Arkansas there’s an anxious red-headed pre-teen girl asking “who is my . . . guardian angel.” A studious middle schooler in California asks “what is the . . . public option” while a burnt-out guitarist in Idaho is asking “what is the . . . meaning of life.” And always, everyone asking “Why did . . . I get married? Why did . . . Hitler dislike Jews? And, why did . . . the chicken cross the road?”
Or, if you really want to have your mind blown, stop thinking about individuals, and think about hundreds or thousands of people. These are searches made by crowds, the most popular recent searches Google has recorded beginning with your chosen words. That’s right, it’s not one person asking “why do white people . . . love Wayne Brady so much.” It’s a bunch. Spend a little while plugging in vague prefixes and you’ll find that we as a nation, or a world, or maybe just an Internet community are obsessed with pregnancy, celebrities, celebrity pregnancies, and, most of all, the Jackson 5. (Who made them up? Where are they now? Why didn’t they open Michael’s casket?).
Seriously, white people, why? Why?
But we’re just as obsessed with love and philosophy and connecting with our fellow men. Which is sort of encouraging, until you realize that we’re trying to get answers about love and philosophy and our fellow men from a search engine.