Trillions of queries are posed to Google every year. Alongside the mundane searches for recipes and random trivia are private questions too mortifying to pose directly to another human. People come to Google with desires, fears, and curiosities they can’t discuss anywhere else, but still must know: does anyone else think this way?
Former Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz analyzed search data for his book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are.
His research shows that people turn to Google to learn about things prohibited by social norms: racist memes, self-induced abortions, and sexual fetishes of all kinds. In India, for example, the most popular query beginning “my husband wants…” is “…me to breastfeed him.”
“I think there’s something very comforting about that little white box that people feel very comfortable telling things that they may not tell anybody else about,” Stephens-Davidowitz told NPR.