What We Can Learn From Google’s “Year in Search”

"Search" bar on website
I’ve always been a sucker for lists. Even before listicles and Buzzfeed took over the internet, I remember sitting by my radio as a child listening to the year-end “Top 100 Countdown,” trying to guess the year’s top songs.

There’s something fun, nostalgic and maybe even therapeutic about looking back at year’s end and taking time to remember — remember the good times, reflect on the bad and consider how they might affect the future.

One fun list that comes out every year is Google’s “Year in Search,” which highlights the most popular Google searches of the year. This particular list (and accompanying video) gives real insight into our culture’s values and the big questions we all wrestle with. Aside from the searches for fidget spinners and “how to make slime,” there are some really heartbreaking reminders in this year’s search history.

I get a little teary-eyed when I watch this. This was a really hard year for a lot of people. In 2017, we faced:

Hurricanes
Threats of nuclear war
Heartbreaking sexual abuse
Devastating wildfires
Unspeakable violence
Racial injustice and accompanying protests
A growing refugee crisis
And…whatever colorful words you choose to describe our political backstabbing and in-fighting.

It’s easy to become numb to pain and heartbreak, especially when we hear so much bad news every day. Still, it’s important to remember that those numbers and stats and searches represent a huge number of actual people. Real people, just as important as you and me. Real people lost their homes, suffered abuse and were forced to make horribly difficult decisions about how to best provide for their families.

Now, before we all drown in our tears and hopelessly rock in the fetal position, the bad news isn’t what I want to focus on here. You know what dominant emotion I felt watching this video?

Hope.

I believe tragedy breeds opportunity. In the midst of so much pain, doesn’t it bring cheer to your spirit to see so many people wanting to help?

You know who types things like “how to be a good parent” and “how to help flood victims” into Google? I bet most of those searches weren’t made by our political leaders or pop culture icons.

Those searches were made by us — ordinary people. Don’t take that the wrong way. You’re as unique as a snowflake with a special fingerprint and all that jazz. Clearly we need politics and leadership and society structures, but I think ordinary people willing to work hard have much more power than we realize.

In fact, when President Obama left office this year, he included these words in his farewell address:

“Change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.”

Let’s do that.

As we prepare to turn the pages of our calendars in a few days, I want to challenge you. Let’s work together — you and me, the Boundless community, and whoever else ends up reading these words.

If another natural disaster shakes our shores, let’s give even more than we did last year to relief efforts. Let’s find ways to go beyond “thoughts and prayers” and take real action steps to support people hurt by tragedy.

Let’s show extreme generosity to the refugees and immigrants in our communities. Forget the politics; these are people who are hurting. Treat them like real humans, talk with them, encourage them, and listen to their stories.

Let’s engage in politics in a healthy and peaceful way. If you’re not happy with the way things are going, call or write your representatives and treat them with respect. Thank them, share your concerns, and let them know you’re praying for them.

Let’s be a light online. There is enough rage and flaming garbage on Facebook. If you’re angry about something, think twice before going on a social rampage. That’s not how change happens.

Guys? We have some work to do. Maybe more than ever, our culture needs examples of godly men. Of course we should stay miles and miles away from anything remotely close to sexual sin and abuse, but this year let’s go way above and beyond that. Be nice and respectful to every woman you interact with — not in a weird and creepy way, but in a genuine, kind way. Treat your girlfriend, your fiancée, your wife, your sister and every female acquaintance with godly love and respect. The women in our lives should feel protected and safe, and we need to take responsibility to make that much better in 2018.

Are you with me? I’m tired of waiting for our government to make our country great, whatever that means. Let’s get a bunch of ordinary people together and demand — in a healthy way — that our lives look significantly different by the end of next year.

Overcome.

A few years ago I selected Romans 12:21 as my “life verse.” When I’m struggling or facing hard days, I’m intentional about repeating these words in my mind:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

That deserves repeating.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Let’s do that this year. Let’s overcome the evil around us with good — lots and lots of good. Let’s blanket our communities with generous wallets, kind spirits and warm smiles.

The truth is, we have no idea what the new year holds, and frankly it is very possible this fallen world may not look much better this side of heaven. Even if that’s true and we don’t end up making significant cultural progress, I believe this is the way God wants us to live anyway.

Love your neighbors
Pray for those who persecute you
Give generously to those in need
Look out for the oppressed

Those ideas should sound familiar.

As we venture into 2018, let’s be ordinary people who overcome evil with good, and maybe next year’s search history will be a little more cheerful.

About the Author

Matt Ehresman
Matt Ehresman

Matt Ehresman works as the creative media director at First MB Church in Wichita, Kan. He loves using video, images, words and sounds to help people think about things that matter. He is a graduate of Sterling College and Regent University and an expert on all things Mountain Dew and superheroes. He is the proud husband of Tillie and occasionally frustrated owner of Jarvis (their mini Aussie).