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What Americans Fear Most, According to Their Google Search Histories

4 minute read

When you’re a human, there are so, so many things to be scared of. Poisonous spiders. Snakes. The idea that nobody outside your immediate family will ever love you. The dissolution of the middle class. Instagram going down. The Really Big One. Losing your basic human rights. Losing your mind. Losing your HBO GO access.*

For Americans, the biggest fear, apparently, is corruption of government officials, according to a recent survey. (Other biggies from that study included cyber-terrorism, economic collapse and corporate tracking of personal information. Basically, we’re all really paranoid.) But actually, when you use the super-scientific metric of Google searches, Americans are mostly afraid of things like God, heights and other people.

To gear up for Halloween, which is obviously the spookiest day of the year, we decided to look for the most common Google searches for the words “scared,” “afraid” and “fear” to see what really terrifies people the most. Unfortunately, data was not available for smaller states, but we like to think the results were indicative of what’s going on in the collective American psyche. So, with that in mind, here are some of the most common fear-related Google searches in the country:

“Fear of death”

In every single state for which there was enough data — California, New York, Texas and more — people searched “afraid of death” rather frequently. What these people don’t seem to realize is that death shouldn’t be seen as something scary; it should be seen as a respite from all the other terrifying things out there. (Like, again, losing your HBO Go access.** No need to worry about that if you’re already dead.)

Afraid of love”

Some people are addicted to love. Others are afraid of it. Most people, in fact, are afraid of it. Maybe they should dress up as love on Halloween and just spook the hell out of everyone.

“Fear of people”

This is another common search, and there’s actually a word for it: anthropophobia, defined as “a pathological fear of people or human companionship.” Some of us just kind of hate people, but others do, apparently, have a legitimate fear of them.

See the Fantastically Weird Images Google’s Self-Evolving Software Made

These pictures aren’t from the mind of a person on psychedelic drugs. Instead they represent the way Google’s AI software is able to reinterpret different images
Google’s software, called an artificial neural network, is able to learn in the same way a human brain does.
Google trains the network to see by feeding it millions of images that teach it how to interpret different objects.
The network is built of 10 to 30 layers of artificial neurons, each of which interpret different levels of complexity in an image.
These pictures were made by feeding the network an arbitrary image and allowing it to enhance whatever it deems most important
The images serve as a way to test how well the network has learned during training
The results are colorful, jarring and beautiful. Each layer of the network can come up with a different interpretationGoogle
Google calls this process of abstract re-interpretations of images “inceptionism”
Certain objects are often re-interpreted in similar ways. Horizon lines are often filled with towers and pagodas, rocks turn into buildings, and birds or insects appear in pictures of leaves
In addition to re-interpreting images, the network can create “dreams” from a random-noise image by continually building new impressions on top of its old ones Google
In the future neural networks could be used by artists as a new form of visual expression
Google will continue using neural networks for everything from voice recognition to identifying people in its Photos app

What is fear”

Apparently some people are so fearless that they actually need Google to find out what fear even is. “What is fear” is the top search for the word “fear” in New York, which makes a ton of sense, because New York is home to Pizza Rat. Watch the Pizza Rat video again and tell me he’s not triumphantly screaming “WHAT IS FEAR” inside his gross, tiny little head.

“Scared of lonely”

This was a popular search in states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas. At first we were like, Aww, everyone is scared of being lonely, those poor little guys! You’ll be okay! But then we realized “Scared of Lonely” is actually a Beyoncé song. Obviously, it’s great. And, as it turns out, listening to Beyoncé is a great way to forget about all your fears and just dance them away.

“Afraid of commitment”

A word of advice to the people Googling this one: make sure your girlfriend doesn’t see your search history. She will not like that you’re looking to the Internet for help with a so-called fear of commitment. This might lead to A Talk about Where Is This Even Going. Save yourself the trouble and search this one in an incognito tab.

“Fear of words”

A common search in Georgia and Texas. Words are great though! And if you ever start to feel overwhelmed by them, try watching this clip of Ron Swanson sitting down at a typewriter to type every word he knows: Rectangle. America. Megaphone. Monday. Butthole. See? Words are fun.

“No fear”

This was a popular search in just two states: California and Florida. Not sure about California, but obviously people in Florida have no fear. That’s why they commit all those reckless and weird crimes, because they literally do not fear the repercussions.

*Seriously, can anyone hook a girl up? I still need to watch Amy Schumer’s comedy special.


—reporting by Merrill Fabry



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