You are what you click.
So writes Bill Tancer in Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters. He uses his extensive analysis of Internet usage to demonstrate who we are by the trail we leave behind online. Are our actions speaking louder than words?
What we won’t ask others, we’ll ask our search engine.
In this very readable book, we learn all kinds of trivia. Such as the top ten “How to” searches in the U.S. for the four weeks ending December 21, 2007:
- How to tie a tie.
- How to have sex.
- How to kiss.
- How to lose weight.
- How to write a resume.
- How to levitate.
- How to draw.
- How to get pregnant.
- How to make out.
- How to make a video.
“How to” is the most common phrase entered into search engines. In addition to the specific task searches above, the instructional “how to” searches reveal our concern with self-improvement: we want to know how to “lose weight,” “gain weight,” “make money,” and how to do many illegal or illicit activities.
Our search record also reveals our short attention span. At the beginning of each new year, interest in weight loss and fitness sees a surge. But it only lasts four days.
A more lasting trend is our obsession with celebrities. The almost limitless information available feeds upon itself as more and more people have chosen to, as Tancer puts it, “worship at the church of celebrity.”
What are we afraid of? We search prolifically for information about our fears. Interestingly, the online searches don’t necessarily match traditional survey results. For example, we search more online about social fears than we claim we have in real life. Do we allow our vulnerabilities to show more online than in person?
The way we word our searches has grown more sophisticated over time. Over the past four years, the trend is to use more words per search, and become more specific. Collectively, Tancer combines such search patterns to help document and predict trends for industry to be more efficient in meeting consumer needs.
Well, so what? Tancer addresses this well in the last paragraph of the book:
Why is the analysis of our collective Internet behavior so important? If for no other reason, it’s about understanding ourselves and how we are constantly adapting in our rapidly evolving world.
Simply stated, if you want to understand the new connected world and how we choose to live in it, look no further than our Internet behavior; after all, we are what we click.