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Google’s most popular searches of 2016 prove the worst thing about this year was us

What is Brexit?

It’s hard, it’s soft, it’s red, it’s white, it’s blue, and, in the UK, it’s the second most Googled news event of 2016. Which is fine, really. Good work everyone. What’s slightly less fine (and slightly more disheartening) is that that very phrasing – “What is Brexit?” – was also the second most Googled “What is…” question of the year. Tip for Britain going into 2017: figure out what stuff is before you vote for it.

Google has released its annual round-up of the most popular searches and trending news events in the UK. The number one news trending event was “Euro 2016”, followed by “Brexit”, and the “US election” (priorities: we’ve got ‘em).

From then on the list gets a little bit serious with “Hurricane Matthew”, the “Brussels attack”, and “Zika virus” taking the next top spots. In sixth place, however, comes “Clowns”, presumably a reference to the killer clown craze, but also a reflection of the terms in seventh and eighth place: “Harambe” and “Toblerone”.

So far, so good. You can hardly blame us as a nation for searching about world-changing events such as the decision to leave the European Union, the cold-blooded murder of a giant gorilla, and the brutal shrinkage of a beloved chocolate bar.

Things get a little more troubling, however, when we examine the nation’s most popular “What is” and “How to” questions. Here are the most popular “How to” searches, written in a poetic formation for your enjoyment.

How to play Pokemon Go?

How to lose weight well?

How to stay young?

How to go live on Facebook?

How to vote for EU Referendum?

How to get an Irish passport?

How to make slime?

How to appear funny?

How to apply for British citizenship?

How to accept myself for who I am?

(It is worth noting that in Leeds and Cardiff, specifically, one of the most popular “how to” questions was “how to work out percentages”.)

“What is” searches are a little easier to explain without resorting to the excuse that well, really, we are just a little island nation who dubbed ourselves “Great” before realising that liking tea didn’t qualify as a personality trait. This year, we asked Google what Pokemon Go, Brexit, the single market, the EU, a coup, Article 50 and Bastille Day are.

Which is great, because we all know the answers to those questions now, don't we guys? Right, guys? Right?

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

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Can you match the YouTube comment to the YouTube video?

Can anyone? 

It's called the YouTube comment thesis. It's called that because I just called it that, in that sentence you just read, but it's called that nonetheless.

The YouTube comment thesis goes like this: YouTube comments are so bizarre, nonsensical, and yes, offensive, that it is often impossible to match the comment to the video from whence it came. 

For example, check out this comment on a video of Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer being sung at the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton:

With that in mind, it's now time to test the thesis. Can you match the following YouTube comments to the YouTube videos they sit under? 




Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.