Google's 2020 'Year In Search' Will Make You Feel Things

by Julie Scagell

This year’s biggest search question was, “Why”

Every year, Google puts out an annual look back called the “Year in Search,” and as you can imagine, 2020 was quite different than in years past.

The global campaign is a three-minute film translated into more than 50 languages and seeks to “highlight the people, events, and moments that resonated and then reverberated around the world.” One question broke all language barriers this year: “Why.”

“The most human trait is to want to know why,” said narrator Kofi Lost, a Ghanaian-American poet and musician based in Boston. Questions like, “Why can’t I sleep?,” “Why is the NBA postponed?,” and “Why is it called COVID-19?” all topped the list. Unsurprisingly, the global pandemic took center stage, topping Google’s searches and taking up a great deal of time in the film.

The video shows people trying to stay entertained during quarantine, talking to family and working on Zoom, and searching where to find toilet paper. They also mention the staggering statistic that as of today, almost one-and-a-half million people have died from COVID-19 worldwide.

The film also touched on the NBA bubble, the deaths of Kobe Bryant, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Chadwick Boseman, and John Lewis, and the protests following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The Australian wildfires and the explosion in Beirut were also remembered.

“So, why do we still have strength to continue?” Lost asked. The film then shows moments of celebration and people and communities coming together to face the challenges this year has created. The long-overdue outcry and importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, understanding what systemic racism is and how to call it out, and violence to Black people at the hands of police. It also showed firefighters traveling to help fight fires in other locations, COVID vaccinations beginning to be distributed, and frontline workers helping where they can.

The search results also revealed some lighter moments. Tom Hanks was the most searched-for actor, Parasite was the most popular movie, WAP had the most searched-for lyrics, and Tiger King was, of course, the most searched show. President-elect Joe Biden gained the most searches for the top person category.

Grammy-winning producer Peter Cottontale and musical collaborators Cynthia Erivo and Chance the Rapper came together to do the music for the film. The song, “Together,” will be released on Friday.

The film closes with a message of hope for the future, our continued curiosity, and to remind us all to dream big with the phrase: “Search on.” This year, unlike any other, needs a message of hope so we can go into next year ready to deal with whatever it hands us.