GUIDE TO LIFE

Google’s most-searched “how-to” questions capture all the magic and struggle of being human

Obsession
Life as Laboratory
Obsession
Life as Laboratory

My younger sister always gives me very good advice.

Once, for instance, she told me, “You need to stop asking Google questions about your life.” And she was right: Treating an Internet search engine as an advice column isn’t necessarily the best way to navigate life. When you ask Google, “How to find love,” the top answer instructs, “Consider your appearance.” Ask, “Should I write a book?” and the top answer is “Why you should NOT write a book.” The internet can be very discouraging.

But it’s hard to quit my habit of using Google as a go-to, on-demand, 24/7 guide to life. And of course, I’m not alone. On Sept. 1, Google shared a list of the most-searched “how-to” questions around the world. It’s a moving portrait of all the beauty, bewilderment, and struggle of human existence. Consider the global top 10 list:

  1. how to tie a tie
  2. how to kiss
  3. how to get pregnant
  4. how to lose weight
  5. how to draw
  6. how to make money
  7. how to make pancakes
  8. how to write a cover letter
  9. how to make french toast
  10. how to lose belly fat

At first glance, it seems people are seeking Google’s help with concrete tasks. But don’t let the specificity fool you. These aren’t really questions about kisses, French toast, and belly fat. These are questions about how to give and receive love, and other weighty matters. I took the opportunity to translate:

Question What you’re really asking
How to tie a tie How do I grow up
How to kiss How can I be vulnerable
How to get pregnant How can I create a family
How to lose weight Am I lovable
How to draw Is there a cure for my existential ennui
How to make money Can I find success
How to make pancakes What’s the recipe for happiness
How to write a cover letter Am I good enough
How to make french toast Can I be carefree for a morning
How to lose belly fat Can I be young forever

Google certainly has solid, step-by-step replies for many of these questions. But as a seasoned “Ask Google” professional, I thought I’d take a shot at answering them, too.

Question Tentative answer
How to tie a tie Learn from the people you look up to
How to kiss Like you mean it
How to get pregnant Sex! (It doesn’t always work; worth trying repeatedly)
How to lose weight Eat less; exercise more; love yourself at any weight
How to draw Get colored pencils, paper, and go
How to make money Be practical, but keep your soul happy
How to make pancakes Have breakfast with someone you like. And use whole wheat flour. (Trust me.)
How to write a cover letter There’s no right answer to this question, so be bold
How to make french toast Make toast in Paris
How to lose belly fat Your belly is probably fine

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