As Ye Live, So Shall Ye Google

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In American counties considered the easiest in which to live, cameras, iPad apps, and jogging are among the subjects that residents are googling for. In the hardest counties to live in, it’s diabetes, guns, and the Antichrist. This is according to an analysis by the New York Times which used its own metrics to determine what the easiest and hardest places to live were, and then partnered with Google to determine what search terms correlated most strongly. Some of the results as reported by David Leonhardt at the Times are surprising to say the least.

But first let’s get one aspect of this straight. What this report does not say is that in the hardest places to live the Antichrist is the thing most Googled for, nor are digital cameras the top search queries for Easy Street. It is saying that these search terms correlated most strongly to the counties in question. Common searches are common searches across the board, so at the moment I am typing this, things like “Little League World Series” and “Rick Perry” are among the terms dominating Google search at the national level, and we can assume that they are doing so even in the hardest and easiest-going counties alike.

There is little that can be inferred definitively from the Times report, but it’s very telling that when life is less stressful, one has more freedom to think about things like digital photography, and when life is a trial, one’s mind turns to weapons and eternal retribution for whatever one plans on doing with those weapons.

All this said, here are some things that struck me:

  • It is not merely that Easy Street dwellers are into digital cameras, but that they are interested in specific models, such as the Canon Elph and other point-and-shoots, which then makes me wonder how easy their lives can really be if they’re even considering Elphs and not just a decent smartphone with a decent camera. Have they not heard of these yet?
  • One may be tempted to tie a high rate of searches for the Antichrist and guns together as some sort of wish for the End Times infesting the culture, but also consider that “severe itching” is also on that list, which I think makes many of the other searches much more understandable.
  • “Dog Benadryl” is also on the list for the hardest places to live, which, despite the “severe itching,” raises more questions than it answers.
  • Among the search terms for the easiest places to live was the 2001 Ben Stiller film Zoolander, which frankly makes me question the veracity of this entire project. No one, whether their lives be easy or difficult, should be spending any time thinking about that.
  • The greatest tragedy to emerge from all of this? According to Leonhardt, “Searches on some topics, like Oprah Winfrey or the Super Bowl, are popular almost everywhere.”

We have so far to go.

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