Friday Fives: The Top Five Google Searches of 2014

If you’ve been spending any time with leaderhelps, you know I think that Biblical preaching and teaching should grip tightly to the pure uncompromised Truth of Scripture and should be relevant to the people to whom it is preached. The implication is that an understanding of culture should inform the message without being allowed to in any way conform the Biblical text.

So, this Friday Fives presents a resource for understanding something about our culture by looking at the most searched terms on Google (according to Google) in 2014. Now that last year is firmly behind us, perhaps we can learn something by looking back. The focus is on those terms searched in the United States rather than internationally. If you’re curious, the top five international searches appear at the end of the post.

Before we start, a note about Google: I know many believers no longer use Google, choosing not to support its secular, even anti-Christian leanings. They have moved onto other search engines and are completely happy. I’m only choosing to analyze Google searches here because there are more of them and therefore reflect a broader representation of culture.

#5 Flappy Bird

Now this says something about our culture: The fifth most popular search in the United States in 2014 was for a mobile video game in which players try to fly a bird between green pipes – and other “enemies” and obstacles – without touching them. The fifth most popular search! But there’s more. The game was removed Apple’s App Store by its creator because it was seen as too addictive.

From In an exclusive interview with Forbes, Flappy Bird developer Dong Nguyen has revealed the real reason he removed the extremely popular app from the App Store and the Google Play Store. According to Nguyen, the game’s addictiveness is what convinced him to remove it, and the app is not coming back. “Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed,” the developer said “But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird. It’s gone forever.”

#4 Malaysia Airlines

If there are two themes that are most prevalent in Internet searches they are, 1) tragedy and, 2) celebrity. I imagine volumes have and will be written about what that says about the culture in which we are teaching, preaching and leading.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the countdown is that such a mystery as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 only finished fourth.

On March 7, 2014 Flight 370 left Kuala Lumpur International Airport near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on its way to Beijing Capital International Airport. The flight last made voice contact with air traffic control when it was over the South China Sea and disappeared from radar screens shortly thereafter.

The plane and its 239 passengers and crew from 15 nations have never been found. No floating debris, nothing on the ocean floor. On March 24, the Malaysian government announced that its conclusion is that the flight ended somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

If you’re researching the story, you’ll find a comprehensive account here.

#3 Ebola

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2014 saw the first Ebola outbreak to reach epidemic proportions. According to the World Health Organization, by February, 2015, there are 23,729 suspected cases and 9,604 deaths.

You’ll find the CDC report on cases in the United States here.

And key Ebola facts from the CDC follow:

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but the most recent outbreak in west Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas.

#2 World Cup

It’s no surprise that the World Cup would be the second most popular search internationally (see below), but its presence so high on the American list may indicate a rise in the popularity of soccer in the US – something that’s been promised by American soccer enthusiasts for years.

The 2014 World Cup was the 20th FIFA World Cup and took place in Brazil. Germany won for the fourth time by defeating Argentina 1-0 in the final.

The national teams of 31 countries participated in a total of 64 matches  in 12 cities across Brazil. The US team beat Ghana 2-1, tied Portugal 2-2 and lost to Germany 1-0 – all in the group stage. In the round of 16, the U.S. lost 2-1 to Belgium in extra time.

#1 Robin Williams

Facing depression, dementia and Parkinson’s Disease, Williams committed suicide on August 11, 2014.  His sad story was the most popular search in Google in the United States in 2014.

Williams won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the 1997 film,  Good Will Hunting. He also won two Emmy Awards, six Golden Globes and four Grammy Awards. He will go down as one of the greatest actor/comedians of all time.

While he was raised an Episcopalian, it has been speculated that he turned to the religion of atheism during his life.

The top five searches internationally were:

5. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
4. Malaysia Airlines
3. Ebola
2. World Cup
1. Robin Williams