12 new ways we’re using search to express how we feel

Conveying affection online is one of the novel challenges of the COVID-19 era. And people are searching for ways to express how they feel.

Search phrases often contain signals of intent.

This year, use of the syntax “for [someone]” is especially high.1

When we search “for [someone],” it means we are trying to find something for someone else.

That “someone” is often a friend.

At nearly identical rates across weekdays and weekends, people are searching with a friend in mind.2

Social distancing has moved our friendships online.

Search phrases containing “for friend” grew by 2X since last year.

We’re also sending our friends more “wishes.”

Especially birthday wishes. Search phrases containing “wishes for friend” grew by 4X since last year.

Instead of visiting our friends, we’re messaging them.

Search phrases containing “message to friend” rose by 100% since last year.

Even if it’s just to say “good morning.”

Search phrases containing “friend good morning” grew by 20X since last year.

When we can’t find the words to express how we feel, we search for them online.

We’ve even found virtual ways to hug. In the absence of tone, touch, and body language, we seek out GIFs, quotes, images, and videos to show affection.

This has been a difficult year.

But with the help of search, it’s fast becoming a banner year for virtual gestures of care and affection.

1. Google Data, Global English, June 3, 2020–Aug. 1, 2020 vs. June 3, 2019–Aug. 1, 2019. All claims cite this data unless otherwise noted.

2. Google Data, Global English, July 1, 2020–July 31, 2020.