In 2020, People Looked to Algorithms and Asked, “What Should I Do?”

PCMag
PCMag
Jan 20 · 2 min read

With chaos reigning, people turn to Google for direction.

By Chandra Steele

Giving up control is sometimes the sanest response to chaos. And if any time in recent history has proved there is no order in the universe, it was 2020. The questions people turned to Google for got more urgent, as AT&T reseller All Home Connections found when it looked at the Google results for “Should I…” in each state.

All the anxieties people have experienced this past year surfaced: “Should I quarantine?” “Should I move?” “Should I get back with my ex?” The search for answers surged, and residents of specific states handled the uncertainty of events with distinct worries.

A state-by-state breakdown found that Californians, perhaps because they are often on the brink of “waiting for the big one,” wondered whether they should get back together with an ex. Other states were looking for companionship of a fuzzier type (well, depending on your ex); “Should I get a dog?” was the question on the minds of most in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. Then, some people could not decide whether they should bring a child into the world, with Kentucky and Utah querying, “Should I have a baby?”

As more people have spent time connecting over social media, plenty of warnings have surfaced about the havoc it could create, both last year and already this year. Accordingly, “Should I delete Facebook?” was something people pondered in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

Of course, there were plenty of searches directly related to COVID-19, like “Should I get tested for COVID?” (Idaho, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) and “Should I quarantine?” (Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont).

With office life turning to work-from-home life, housing was top of mind. Some were trying to get answers to “Should I refinance?” (Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming) while others considered “Should I move houses?” (New York and Texas). And yet others thought, “Should I buy a house now?” (Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada).

Those who had been inside having beauty-related existential dilemmas went looking for answers to, “Should I dye my hair?” (Connecticut, Iowa, and Oregon), and in extreme cases, “Should I shave my head?” (Florida and Maryland).

Turning to an algorithm to survey the world for the big answers during traumatic times is relatively new in human history. But finding we’re not alone in our anxieties is not.

Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.

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