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December 27, 2010 / passiveprogressive

New Year’s Resolutions

We all make them. It’s strange to think that an abstract date could have such an impact on the way our world works, but as I saw with some easy browsing on Google Trends, this is indeed the case. Google Trends records the amount of search traffic and then presents it in graph form, relative to the previous day’s searches. The colored terms at the top of the graph are the exact phrase being typed into Google. They provide insight into what’s on everyone’s mind.

Spikes vs. Curves

You’ll notice on each of the charts that there are New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Summer, and other spikes. These seem to signify the amalgamation of conscious efforts in society as a whole. Take the concept of New Year’s resolutions: everyone makes a conscious effort to change something about their lives. This results in a short burst of interest that wanes fairly quickly.

Curves on the other hand, such as a decreasing interest in employment seem to represent phenomena based on much deeper motivations in the collective psyche.

This is occurrence is demonstrated in both the “employment” and “diet & exercise” graphs: a general decline in interest towards the end of the year (Q4: October-December). Perhaps it’s the season or a general fatigue, but this curve is much longer than the boost we gain from momentary self-directedness.

1. Employment:

Across multiple search terms, employment was on the minds of many directly after New Year's.



Notice how the “News Reference Volume” portion of the chart clearly delineates the beginning of the recession. Interestingly, it seems as though in most years, the spike that occurs after New Year’s is not abnormal: it’s almost indistinguishable from the average peaks throughout the year. However, the year after the recession began (2008 –> 2009), this spike was abnormally high. More people unemployed mean more job applicants, right?


The following year doesn’t demonstrate the same spike however – most probably a representation of either improving employment, discouraged worker effect, or people realizing that you can’t get jobs by just googling them.

For college students there’s the internship:


Internships have a much more dynamic (though predictable) trend than the job market as a whole.


Notice the slight bump during thanksgiving, and then the abrupt climb after New Year’s. Expect some more competition if you wait until January to figure  out June.

2. Diet & Exercise

About 2/3 of adult Americans are considered to be overweight or obese. The good news is that most people seem to know it. However, these graphs seem to give credence to the idea that we let our awareness of fitness slip during the holiday months. Additionally, it seems that for most people the interest in diet and exercise will wane by the end of January.

Again, this doesn’t mean people are simply slacking off, most likely a certain percentage have settled into a workout or diet routine.

Perhaps the most common new year resolution, clearly reflected in google searches.

3. Smoking



Despite the erratic New Year’s spikes, it’s nice to see a general downward trend here (I’m assuming this means less people need to quit in general).

Trends for the terms "quit smoking" and "nicotine" seem to corroborate the common New Year's resolution of quitting for good.

4. Getting Happy



It wasn’t that long ago the Seasonal Affective Disorder was consider bunk by Psychologists. Now, Google Trends paints a pretty clear picture of its existence. Noticed the decreased search traffic during the summer months, and then the increase during winter. The big dent of course is Christmas week –  and let’s be honest, while some families might make us insane, traveling and Christmas mean that everything is temporarily put on hold.

Maybe not so much a spike in depression searches as a return to normal after New Year's.




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