Gossip and scandal lead Google’s Top Searches in 2015

December 17, 2015, 10:40am

The stories of Syrian migrants captivated us. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times  

By Jonah Bromwich, the New York Times

Google released the top search terms of the year Wednesday morning, accompanied by a video stitched together from inspiring clips: France’s response to the Paris attacks, refugees navigating their way to safe haven and an adult lion bathing its cub, all of it narrated by Caitlyn Jenner’s speech at the ESPY Awards calling for harmony and acceptance of one another’s differences.

But the search giant’s lists emphasized that Americans who went online were less interested in being uplifted than being distracted, preferably by something scandalous.

Lamar Odom, who in October was hospitalized in Las Vegas after being found face down in a brothel, was the highest on the list of the year’s trending searches in the United States and globally. Mr. Odom, a former professional basketball player, got an extra surge of attention after the extended family of his wife, Khloe Kardashian (who is also Ms. Jenner’s stepdaughter), paid him a visit in his hospital room. Later that month, the two called off their divorce.

Mr. Odom was followed on the American list by two movies, “Jurassic World,” the highest-grossing film of the year, and “American Sniper.” Ms. Jenner and the mixed martial-arts fighter Ronda Rousey, whose undefeated streak ended in November came next. Paris was the sixth highest term on the list.

Americans sought out actors, not for their screen roles but for tabloid episodes. Charlie Sheen, Bill Cosby and Taylor Kinney, who proposed to Lady Gaga in February, topped the list of male actors. Ruby Rose, the “Orange Is the New Black” actress and a fixture of magazine covers in her native Australia, was the highest trending actress. She was joined by Rumer Willis, the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, who won the 2015 season of “Dancing With the Stars.”

If political polling was conducted by how often a politician was Googled, Donald J. Trump would be leading the 2016 field. Second among most searched politicians was Bernie Sanders, followed by Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson. The Iowa teenager running for president as Deez Nuts, at sixth, attracted more interest than Hillary Clinton, who did not appear in the top 10.

Lists were separated into categories, some of them more crowded than others. The list of most-searched candidates was the sole one in a section labeled for business and politics. The entertainment category, on the other hand, had 16 separate lists.

When it came to counting calories, Starbucks customers were apparently extremely concerned with the waistline havoc that might be wrought by the Toasted Graham Latte, a beverage introduced by the company this fall. Grilled Stuft Nachos, from Taco Bell, were also a concern for those keeping an eye on their figures.

Searchers used Google as a shortcut to understanding new technology and trends. They wondered how to use Snapchat after an update was released in September. They wanted to know who Pepe the Frog was, a more serious search after the popular meme was used on a 4chan thread that was examined by federal law enforcement officials in October in connection with a shooting at a community college in Oregon.

They were concerned with learning about gallbladder infections (second on a “symptoms” list), what they should pack for Cancun, finding Disneyland (first and second on a travel questions list) and learning the lyrics to Adele’s “Hello.” All of this worry may have contributed to the seventh trending term on the symptoms list: anxiety attack.

Along with the lists, Google provided a closer look at specific events that fit in more closely with its video. These included the Paris attacks in November, the discovery of water on Mars in October, the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Supreme Court’s ruling that Americans are guaranteed the right to same-sex marriage, and, of course, the death in July of “an icon,” Cecil the Lion.