Gamestop stocks, Taliban takeover, Covid vaccines, and Olivia Rodrigo’s rise to fame, here are the Google searches that defined 2021 across the world.
Google Trends has released its top searches over the course of 2021. From the Gamestop short squeeze to the chaotic US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the annual data collection reveals what dominated our internet searches this year.
Overall, this year the world searched for the “impact of climate change,” “how to maintain mental health,” “affirmations,” and “body positivity” more than ever before.
Cultural searches also broke Google Trends history including “what is a retrograde” and “mittens” - which reached an all-time high in January thanks to all the Bernie Sanders memes.
As the year crawls to an end, we look back on the most popular searches worldwide by category.
Charting the top of the news category in global searches this year was Afghanistan. The year was marked by the fall of Kabul, when the Taliban captured Afghanistan's capital city on August 15, 2021.
In the midst of a United States troop withdrawal, the Taliban took over the country after capturing most of the provincial capitals. Currently several nations are striving to help the country’s 39 million residents cope with food shortages amid a severe economic collapse.
In second place in the news category was AMC stock, referring to the buying frenzy that made headlines earlier this year. It all sparked when news broke that large hedge funds were betting big sums of money against the stocks of video game company GameStop and movie theatre chain AMC.
Individual investors and small-time traders got together on social media platform Reddit to buy the falling stocks and caused both to skyrocket. In turn, big investors took a hard financial hit and Reddit traders made big bucks.
'Covid vaccine' was the third most searched term in the news category. Since it’s global outbreak in 2020, Covid-19 has infected more than 276 million people and killed over 5.3 million worldwide. Countries are on red alert as the virus’s latest variant Omicron is spreading rapidly throughout the world.
The effects of the pandemic were clear on global searches as people typed in “where can I travel” three times more in 2021 compared to years before. The US also searched for “road trip” more in 2021 than ever before.
People: Alec Baldwin
The most googled person in the world this year was Alec Baldwin. The US actor is currently facing a lawsuit that alleged he recklessly fired a prop gun on the set of his Western film “Rust.” Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza injured when the gun turned out to be loaded.
The tragedy prompted a discussion over the safety concerns of using real guns on production sets. Two lawsuits about the incident have been filed and many more are expected.
Following Baldwin’s lead in searches was Kyle Rittenhouse, an American teenager who killed two men and injured another during protests against police brutality in Wisconsin last year.
During his court hearing this year, 18-year-old Rittenhouse claimed the shootings were done in self-defence and was acquitted of all charges. Among other charges, the jury found him not guilty of reckless and intentional homicide.
Denmark’s Christian Eriksen was the third most googled person this year. Millions of TV viewers were shocked when the athlete collapsed during a Euro 2020 football match against Finland. He suffered a cardiac arrest and was saved by CPR administered to him on the pitch.
The incident prompted hundreds of Danes to sign up for the "heart runner" app, which alerts volunteers to assist heart attack victims.
Other significant searches in the people category included Amanda Gorman as the top searched poet worldwide, and royals Meghan and Harry were the most searched under the interview category in Google Trends history globally.
Movies and shows: Squid Games
Worldwide sensation “Squid Games” was the most searched TV show of 2021. The show became Netflix’s biggest launch ever, reaching 111 million fans, and is estimated to be worth almost $900 million according to Bloomberg News.
The show’s creator-director Hwang Dong-hyuk has confirmed it will continue for a second season.
The South Korean show’s affect was seen in other categories as well, including record high searches for the children's game “red light green light” and South Korea’s dalgano candy or “honeycomb cookies.”
2021 was a good year for Netflix as another original series, “Bridgerton”, scored second place for global Google searches.
However, superhero movie fans also filled search engine results with Disney+’s “WandaVision” coming in third place and “Loki” in fifth place for TV shows. Marvel’s “Eternals” was also the most googled movie.
In second place for most googled movies was “Black Widow” starring US actress Scarlett Johansson. Johansson made headlines after saying she was suing Disney over its decision to release the film on streaming at the same time as in theatres.
Meanwhile, sci-fi film Dune, which led North America box office sales at its premiere, came in third for most googled movies worldwide.
Music: Olivia Rodrigo
Young US singer Olivia Rodrigo’s huge-hit “drivers license” came in first for most googled song. It won Song of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) and 18-year-old Rodrigo won Best New Artist.
Her debut album “Sour” topped charts across the globe and was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year. In total, the artist has been nominated for seven Grammys for 2022 including Best New Artist. She was also named Time's Entertainer of the Year for 2021.
Lil Nas X scored both second and third place with his hits MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name), which won Video of the Year at the VMAs, and Industry Baby.
The singer teased his fans on TikTok after posting a video that went viral claiming he had an upcoming court hearing about his Satan Shoes. It turned out to be a marketing ploy for “Industry Baby” which became his third number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
Breaking away from the global trend, rapper Travis Scott was the most googled musician in the United States.
Scott made headlines after at least 10 people were killed and many injured during his performance at the Astroworld music festival in Houston. The US House Committee has launched a probe into the incident.
Sports: Real Madrid
Real Madrid C.F beat Chelsea F.C. as the most googled sports team in the world this year, followed by Paris Saint-Germain F.C. in third place.
Last year’s La Liga champions, Real Madrid generated the biggest income in Covid-hit 2019 - 2020 season at $832 million (681.2 million euros). However, they lost the last title to Atletico Madrid.
During 2021, Real Madrid’s manager Zinedine Zidane resigned, captain Sergio Ramos moved after 16-years, striker Karim Benzema was suspended for blackmail complicity, and Florentino Perez was re-elected as the club's president.
Food: Birria tacos
Birria tacos blew up on social media last year and have continuously been trending throughout 2021. They are made using Mexican beef stew that has been stuffed into a taco shell. The shell is then also dipped into the stew and fried creating a delicious fusion of two popular dishes.
According to a study by meal replacement company Exante, videos about birria tacos were viewed nearly 500 million times on TikTok. They were also featured in 135,214 Instagram posts and reached an annual Google search volume of 11.2 million.
In second place for most googled food was Nasi goreng, a fried rice dish popular in Indonesia and Malaysia. It’s usually cooked with pieces of meat, vegetables, and seasonings such as sweet soy sauce.
Finally in third place was TikTok’s feta pasta trend from last year. The viral pasta sauce is essentially a block of feta cheese that was roasted in the oven surrounded by tomatoes.
People have since created alternatives to the pasta dish using burrata, spinach dip, and even adding meat and seafood to it.
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