THERE is a place where we give away our deepest, darkest secrets — and it’s called Google.
What we type in the search box may not be traced back to us as individuals, but our online queries — from relationships and sex to how we really feel about our kids — remain in web space to be examined, researched and turned into statistics that reveal how we really tick.
A new book by former Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz explores what our search habits say about our private lives and our real views — rather than our publicly-voiced opinions.
And he says that what we confess at our keyboards contradicts much of the conventional wisdom from surveys, studies and polls, The Sun reports.
Seth has spent the past four years poring over Google searches, Wikipedia and Facebook profiles and data from adult website Pornhub.
He said: “Google was invented so people could learn about the world, not so researchers could learn about people.
“But the trails we leave as we seek knowledge are tremendously revealing.”
BODY IMAGE AND SEX
The organ about which men google most frequently is … probably not hard to guess.
Indeed, Seth writes: “Men google more questions about their sexual organ than any other body part — more than about their lungs, liver, feet, ears, nose, throat and brain combined.
“Men do more searches for how to make their penises bigger than how to tune a guitar, make an omelet or change a tyre.”
Men’s top-googled question about ageing is whether it will make their penis shrink. But women care far less about the size of their partner’s organ. For every one search that women make about a partner’s size, men make roughly 170 searches of their own.
And more than 40 per cent of complaints by women about size are that their lover is too well endowed — whereas only one per cent of searches by men about changing penis size are looking to make it smaller.
Men’s second commonest sex question is how to make their sexual encounters last longer.
In contrast, roughly the same number of women search how to make their partner climax more quickly.
Among searches beginning “How to … ” that are related to breasts, about 20 per cent ask how to get rid of man boobs.
And it seems there has been a “Kardashian effect” on how women view their behinds.
In 2004 the top search about changing female bums was how to shrink them.
But the interest in boosting bum size then tripled in just four years.
MARRIAGE AND RELATIONSHIPS
According to official surveys, married men and women each report having sex about once a week.
Yet Google search data paints a far bleaker picture.
Searches for “sexless marriage” are three-and-a-half times more common than “unhappy marriage”.
And there are 16 times more complaints about a spouse not wanting sex than about a married partner not being willing to talk, with men the main culprits.
There are twice as many complaints that a boyfriend won’t have sex than a girlfriend.
Indeed, the top complaint in search data about a “boyfriend” is that he won’t have sex.
And the question “Is my husband … ” is ten per cent more likely to be followed by the word “gay” than the word “cheating” and eight times more likely than “an alcoholic”.
However, women are twice as likely than men to seek online advice on how to perform better oral sex on their partner.
Sadly, blokes make as many searches on how to perform oral sex on themselves as they do on how to give a woman an orgasm.
People are seven times more likely to ask Google if they will regret not having children than if they will regret having them.
But after going ahead and starting a family, those numbers are reversed.
Adults with children are 3.6 times more likely to tell Google they regret their decision than childless adults.
The most common way to complete a Google search beginning “Is my two-year-old … ” is with the words “gifted” or “a genius”.
But parents are two and a half times more likely to ask if their son is gifted than their daughter.
This is despite clear evidence that at this age, girls are more likely to be educationally advanced.
Meanwhile, parents are twice as likely to google “Is my daughter overweight?” than the same question about a son.
Yet health data shows that about 28 per cent of girls are overweight, as opposed to 35 per cent of boys.
Parents are also one and a half times more likely to ask if their daughter is beautiful than if their son is handsome.
And they are three times more likely to ask if a daughter is ugly than a son.
Seth found that sex and romance are not the only subjects about which people reveal their true feelings anonymously online.
Americans, for instance, search for the term “kill Muslims” as often as “martini recipes” and “migraine symptoms.”
Four days after 2015’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, by Muslim husband and wife Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, President Obama gave a national address speaking of the importance of inclusion and tolerance.
The speech was widely praised by pundits at the time, yet Seth found Google data indicated it didn’t have the calming effect intended.
During and after the speech searches calling Muslims “bad”, “violent”, “evil” and “terrorists” doubled.
Americans search for “porn” more often than they search for “weather”.
This is despite findings in surveys that only about 25 per cent of men and eight per cent of women admit to watching pornography.
But Seth argues that while there is a common perception that the internet is dominated by smut, it is not actually true.
He writes: “Of the top ten most visited websites, not one is pornographic. So the popularity of porn, while enormous, should not be overstated.”
But he also describes the existence of porn and the data it yields as a “revolutionary development in the science of human sexuality”.
Seth’s examination of popular searches on the website Pornhub revealed some shocking trends. In India, the top search beginning “My husband wants … ” is completed by “ … me to breastfeed him” and porn searches for women breastfeeding men are four times higher than in any other country.
Of the top 100 searches by men on Pornhub, 16 are looking for incest-themed videos, with most searching for scenes of mothers and sons.
The number is fewer for women but still an unnerving nine out of every 100 searches are for incest videos, with most looking for scenes featuring fathers and daughters. The top choice to complete the global Google search “I want to have sex with my … ” is “mum”.
However, Seth does concede in his book that Google can display a bias towards controversial thoughts which people feel they cannot share with anyone else.
One of the more common searches made before or after “gay porn” is “gay test”, suggesting many users are keen to know if watching such videos means they are homosexual.
Seth looked into how pregnancy played out in web searches around the world.
He found that despite living in different countries and cultures, pregnant women worldwide seem to crave the same types of food, the top five being spicy, salt, sweets, chocolate and ice cream.
But the concerns of pregnant women seem to differ from country to country.
American women ask about drinking coffee and wine, eating sushi and taking paracetamol.
Nigerian women want to know if they can drink cold water, have sex and continue to eat a particular type of edible plant, and Brazilians want to know if they can dye their hair, ride a bike and fly.
Questions on how to stop stretch marks dominate searches in the US, Australia and Britain. But among Nigerian and Indian women the issue does not make the top five “how to” questions.
There, they are keener to know how to have sex in pregnancy, how to sleep and how to feel better.
Seth has been working on what our internet searches can tell us about anxiety levels.
He said: “After the election of Trump there was a lot of stuff on social media about how anxious people were feeling.
“But I looked at Google search data in liberal areas where people would likely be upset about Trump and found that there was no increase in searches around anxiety, panic attacks or anything like that.
Similarly you would expect a terrorist attack which kills dozens or even hundreds would trigger massive, widespread panic. But there was no rise at all in anxiety-related searches in the days, weeks and months following every major attack in Europe or America since 2004.
“It struck me that while people seem to feel it is more socially acceptable to claim to be anxious about big, global political issues, it is actually more self-centred issues like money or legal problems that keep them awake at night.”
Seth’s research convinced him that while our social media profiles might paint one picture of our thoughts and interests, our Google searches show another.
For instance, women’s top five terms for describing husbands on social media are “the best”, “my best friend”, “amazing”, “the greatest” and “so cute”. Yet in Google searches, the list is “gay”, “amazing”, “annoying” and “mean”.
Seth highlights a Microsoft study of 58,000 Facebook users which found that those who like Mozart, thunderstorms and curly fries have higher IQs than those who like motorbikes or the page “I Love Being a Mum”.
Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data And What The Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, is published by Dey Street Books
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