What did matter on our planet this year? Well, the most notorious criminal in the history of crime was killed after a decade of searching, popular revolutions swept the Middle East, and fervent discontent hit America for the first time in a long time, Japan suffered a nuclear disaster, and technology's greatest living figure died. But taking a stroll through the Google spirit of the times, you'd never guess these things were that meaningful — all are either buried in or omitted from the lists entirely.
What was most popular, instead? Rebecca Black, Google+ (the Rebecca Black of social networks), the death of "Oh yeah, I remember watching him in middle school" Ryan Dunn, and the iPhone 5 — a product that never existed. If this is the spirit of our time, then we are living in a sad time.
It's never pleasant to hold a mirror up to one's face and think, Christ, is this really me? And so, looking at the things most popular in the world, I see sunken eyes, haggard skin, and an expression of despair:
Kim Kardashian Wedding
Tom Brady Haircut
Selena Gomez Haircut
Emma Watson Haircut
All of these things generated such a flash of interest in their respective categories that they were able to crack the top 10 for Google, the gold standard of typing shit in a box online.
But flash is crucial — our zeitgeist isn't a series of persistent trends, or the truly influential. It's people and things that were tossed in the grease pit of the global consciousness, fizzed for a while, and then burned out — tablet fire sales, memes, fake weddings, Google+. Things that mattered briefly, intensely, and probably for poor reasons. It's these things that primarily comprise "what mattered in 2011" — not the social groundswells or dead luminaries, but scandal, rumour, and Tom Brady's follicles. Fascinating? Yes — in the sense that a higher intelligence will someday arrive at our scorched planet and put on satirical performances mocking what we cared about.
So is this really what mattered, as Google says? No. But hey — they're just the aggregator — we're the ones googling Emma Watson Haircut. [Google Zeitgeist]