Google’s Year in Search shows people looked to heal in 2021

People searched for ways to improve their physical and mental health following 2020’s tumultuous year.

2020 was the year of uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic completely uprooted our daily lives. 

Racial tensions also came to a peak in the U.S. as civil unrest broke out following the murder of George Floyd. 

Google’s top trending search term in 2020 was “why,” as people struggled to make sense of the changing world around them. One year later, search trends indicate that people are seeking out ways to recover from 2020’s devastating blows. 

In 2021, Google’s top trending search was “how to heal.” On Wednesday, the tech giant released its annual “Year in Search” video, which reflects on all of the ways people embraced their scars and gathered the strength to move forward.

The spot, created by Google Brand Studio, begins with a woman sharing her story. “This year has been extremely challenging for me,” she says. “I am broken and I am healing.”

Glimpses of memorials for COVID-19 victims are shown along with the popular search phrase, “how to honor someone.” Anxiety was also simmering under the surface as people continued to live with uncertainty amid the rise of new variants and feared another lockdown similar to March 2020. 

Racial tensions also continued with anti-Asian discrimination, spurring the Stop Asian Hate movement. The spot also harkens back to George Floyd’s murder, including the 2021 sentencing of Derek Chauvin.

Mental health was a top priority this year as people searched “how to take care of your mental health.” Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, who took breaks from tennis and the Olympics, respectively, due to mental health issues, put conversation at the forefront of culture. 

The spot also includes the joyful moments of 2021: people receiving vaccines and small businesses reopening. Lin-Manuel Miranda welcomed us back to live theater and Billie Eilish and BTS performed their first live concerts since the start of the pandemic.

Live sports returned, people tearfully reunited with family members and communities banded together to share supplies and food. 

“To everyone fighting to come back stronger, search on,” the tagline reads. 

This year, Google extended the campaign in a partnership with Pop-Up Magazine to create a 64-page print and digital magazine to serve as a physical time capsule of the year. 300,000 print copies will be included as newspaper inserts in publications like the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post.

Other elements of the campaign include a digital hub with an interactive “choose your own adventure” experience for users to explore trends from the past year and an interactive retail experience at the Google Store in New York City. 


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