Just by listening to our conversations, alien life could easily assume many of us worship a deity named “Google.” If we have a problem or a question, we say, “Just ask Google.” We turn to the ubiquitous search engine for all our answers in life.
Much of what we type into the search bar would be innocuous and uninteresting, but because of the seeming anonymity of the web, other topics and questions are much more risqué and controversial.
Fixr.com, a cost-estimating website, created a U.S. map that details the most commonly searched for good or service in that state or capital city.
What they found reveals several core needs we all have and our often futile attempts to satisfy them. While we frequently speak of eyes being the windows to the soul, Google seems to have that cornered as well now. Our searches reveal more about us than we would care to admit.
Here are the popular searches boiled down to eight different desires with examples from the states.
1. Basic needs: Several states are searching for things like how much it costs to drill a well or build a house. Others are searching for water, gas and electricity. We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that for many those are the needs that dominate their thinking.
2. Truth: People in Ohio are searching for a private investigator. For many, they want to know the truth about their spouse, their boyfriend or girlfriend, or numerous other relationships or situations. Finally having the truth is most important to them.
3. Family: Adoption and DNA testing top the lists in some states. People want to know where they came from and where they fit now. They want to belong within a family, whether that means welcoming a new child or discovering whose child they are.
4. Escape: Alcohol, drugs and abortion appear as the most frequent item in several states. Many are looking to drinking and drugs as means by which they can avoid facing their problems. Others may be seeking an abortion to escape what they see as a mistake.
5. Help: Whether it is help with the kids in the form of a nanny in Texas or wondering how much a funeral costs for a loved one in New Jersey, many want help of some kind. Life is overwhelming. They want someone to get them through difficult times.
6. Forgiveness: Maryland and Delaware are searching for how much a DUI costs. Even if it is merely wanting legal forgiveness, they want to be able to put their past mistakes behind them.
7. Acceptance: From face lifts in California to nose jobs in North Carolina, several forms of plastic surgery appeared all across the map. We want to have others accept us and we think surgically “improving” our appearance is the way to do it.
8. Love: In several states, people most frequently wanted to know how much a prostitute cost. They were not getting the companionship they wanted through legal and moral avenues, so they were looking to buy it illegally. Love, like everything else on this list to Googlers, was merely a commodity like food or drink.
Did you notice something about all eight of these needs that drove people to Google? Each one is something Christ offers, most frequently through the local church.
While it could be easy to examine a list like this and lament the state of our culture that contained so many searching for the cost of plastic surgery, an abortion or a prostitute, Christians should question why it is society has decided the church is no longer the place that can meet the real needs beneath those surface desires.
These searches show the futility of our seeking meaning and fulfillment apart from Christ, but they also expose the failures of the church to be the avenue through which Christ can meet our deepest needs. Google has shown us not only into the souls of the searcher, but also the souls of the ones who claim to be found.
Instead of complaining about culture, do something within your church to meet those deeper needs of others. If I know I have a group of people who love and support me unconditionally and are seeking the ultimate best for me, I am much less tempted to turn to Google for all the answers.
Within the community surrounding it (and through Christ), the local church should provide basic needs, truth, family, escape, help, forgiveness, acceptance and love to those searching for it. When searchers know they can come to God instead of Google, they’ll find their true needs are being met and this map will look a lot different.