Google have given an insight into the search trends that defined 2021, and it makes for an interesting reminder of everything the world went through over the past 12 months. Here we take a look at some of the key search trends from the last year, and what sparked all of the searches.
‘Doomscrolling’ was searched for more than ever across the globe. ‘Doomscrolling’ is defined as “the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of negative news”. Studies show that seeing upsetting news leads people to seek out more information on the topic, creating a self-perpetuating cycle. With everything that the world has had to contend with in the last 18 months – including the pandemic, climate change, and political upheaval- it’s no wonder that ‘doomscrolling’ is trending as people try to put a label on their habit of going down a negative news wormhole.
Searches for ‘Affirmations’ also reached an all-time high worldwide this year. Again, not surprising as people look for some motivation and positivity to boost their mood and bring a little light and hope.
The world searched for ‘how to start a business’ more than ‘how to get a job’ in 2021, probably due to how the pandemic and time off work has led to a shift in perceptions. Many people used lockdown periods to start small businesses from home and explore their passions.
Searches for ‘Mittens ‘reached an all-time high in January, and Google attributes this trend to this photo of Bernie Sanders!
The term ‘Power Outage’ increased in search volume by 5,000% worldwide in February, due to blackouts across the globe.
‘Soulmate’ was searched for more than ever globally in 2021. The reasons for this are unclear. Could it be to people having spent more time alone during lockdown and deciding to start their search for a soulmate? Or perhaps people questioning whether their current partner actually is their soulmate after spending too much time locked down together?!
Search interest in ‘how to conserve’ reached an all time high worldwide, likely due to widespread concern around climate change, and people wanting to know what they can do to make a difference.
‘Megan and Harry interview’ became the most searched interview in Global Trends history following their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.
‘Impact of climate change’ was searched for more than ever before in 2021, again reinforcing the world-wide concerns for the planet and the environment.
‘Suez canal’ became a breakout search trend after the canal was blocked for six days after the grounding of Ever Given, a 20,000 TEU container ship.
Searches for ‘Sustainability’ reached a record high this year due to widespread concern around climate change and people wanting to know how they can live more sustainably.
‘When is nurses week’ was also searched at an all time high. This surge in interest perhaps implies increased levels of public support for nurses and the healthcare sector due to their work during the pandemic.
May saw ‘How to maintain mental health’ searched more globally than ever before. Factors such as the pandemic, illness, economic upheaval, employment and money worries, political unrest, and climate change have all conspired to impact people’s mental health and well being, so it’s not too much of a surprise to see the topic of mental health trending as people try to feel better and stay positive.
May also saw some pop culture trends emerge, with ‘Eurovision’ searched for 3x more than ‘American Idol’, and searches for ‘Miss Universe Mexico winners’ increasing by 3,450%.
The world searched for ‘body positivity’ more than ever before. Body positivity has become a popular movement on social media channels recently and search trends are reflecting this.
‘What is retrograde’ was searched more than ever before globally. In recent years, the idea of ‘retrograde’ has gained in popularity and has become a bit of a buzzword- “Oh, Mercury is in retrograde — that’s why everything is crazy”. People use the phrase as a catch-all to explain any minor inconvenience. In astrology, planets in ‘retrograde’ are also said to affect energy levels and make you feel chaotic, restless, unfocused and anxious. Perhaps people were searching for what the buzzword meant after hearing it used a few times. Or perhaps people were trying to explain their current mindset by looking at planetary activity. Who knows?!
Searches for ‘pride events near me’ increased worldwide by over 5,000%, perhaps indicating a growing awareness of and support for the LGBTQIA community.
July saw rises in searches for two extreme weather conditions, with ‘fire’ and ‘flood’ both global breakout searches at the same time.
‘How many times has Italy won the Euros’ trended globally for the first time ever in Trends history, likely due to Italy winning the Euros in 2020. But why it suddenly trended in July specifically is unclear.
Global searches for ‘where can I travel’ were 3 times higher in 2021 than they were pre-pandemic. This is obviously due to confusion around where people could travel to due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Worldwide searches for ‘skate park’ reached a 5 year high this August. This could indicate a general upwards trend for skateboarding, scooters, etc as a hobby. But it could also suggest that people were searching for summer holiday activities local to them, which were outdoors and free. With far fewer people holidaying abroad due to the pandemic, it is likely that people were looking for activities closer to home in the summer months.
The world searched for ‘y2k’ more in 2021 than ever before. The ‘Y2K’ aesthetic and fashion has been a big trend of 2021, with fashion brands from the 00’s period seeing a resurgence, and pre-loved fashion apps such as Depop accelerating the trend. When referencing fashion trends, it’s often said that there is a 20-year rule, which applies to art, media, interior design, and clothing, and dictates that trends run on a 20 year cycle — hence, the resurgence of Y2K style in 2021.
‘How to help Afghanistan’ was a breakout trend worldwide in August, following the Taliban takeover which culminated in the fall of Kabul on 15th August 2021.
Switzerland had the most search interest in ‘same sex marriage’ during 2021.
Globally, searches for ‘volcano’ tripled from August to September.
In the UK, the phrases ‘is climate change caused by humans’ and ‘how does eating less meat help climate change’ were breakout searches in September. This follows the trend we’ve seen throughout the year regarding concern about climate change. These searches also indicate that the rise in veganism is having an impact on what people are searching for: veganism is becoming a lot more widespread, along with messages about how it can positively impact climate change.
Search Trends in 2021: A Summary
There are some clear overriding themes in the search trends of 2021, largely the pandemic and climate change. It is also likely that these key themes are the driving force behind related trends such as searches around mental health, or how to start a business.
Of course there are always more random trends too which can’t be quite as easily explained. And then there are some trends that you could never predict, such as an 80 year old American politician sparking a huge online search for mittens!