‘How to Buy a Tiger’: Our Favorite Search Trends During the Pandemic

We all have a lot of extra time (and sanitizer) on our hands. And Google search trends hint at what we’re doing with it.

Quietly, one of the most profound consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the unprecedented loss of diversions. Going to the gym, hitting the bar, heck — even having friends over for dinner — it’s all on hold for the foreseeable future.

In their place, we’ve inherited a strange new substitute: time. Want to learn the guitar? Go for it. Want to get into the best shape of your life? Cool, here’s how. Need to catch up on that honey-do list? Here are some simple home improvement projects.

There’s just one thing to remember — Google knows what you’re doing (what you’re searching, anyway). We decided to look at what search trends have emerged during the coronavirus pandemic.

And while there’s no way to know everything that has spiked in the last month or so, we can definitely pinpoint some of the more interesting patterns.

We looked into Google searches that have seen dramatic upticks in the last 4-6 weeks compared to the last 5 years. This roughly mirrors the timeline of national and global stay-at-home orders and the coronavirus response. As a baseline, this is what the Google trend for “coronavirus” looks like:

coronavirus google trend

As you can see, virtually no one searched for “coronavirus” from 2015 into this year. And, no surprise, it spiked dramatically in mid-March.

So, we wondered, “what else spiked over the same timeline?” Get it? Good. Let’s see what people have been Googling — and learning — during these strange, uncertain times.

Google Trends During Coronavirus

First and foremost, this is not a scientific study by any means. And it doesn’t reflect the top search terms during the pandemic. Searches like “how to make a facemask” and “coronavirus symptoms” obviously dominate most queries.

We looked at search terms that topped out at some point during this time — from roughly mid-February through March.

And, of course, it’s not an exhaustive list. There are no doubt hundreds or thousands of searches we don’t cover here. But we culled a handful of interesting results that offer a glimpse into what we — at least some of us — are wondering.

Wine Delivery

wine delivery google trend

Heck. Yes! We are here for wine delivery and, apparently, so are you. Forget toilet paper and rice, vino is clearly the staple we’ll need to get through this.

Toilet Paper

There is just no way anyone could have predicted a spike in the search for TP. But it happened, and it’s one of the strangest phenomenons we’ve witnessed. Also, why search just “toilet paper”?!

How to Make Fire

how to make fire google trend

On the one hand, this is always a good skill to have. Although, on the other hand, why do you need to make fire at home — in the springtime?

This is doubly curious when you take into account that many campgrounds and parks, places where you’d typically need to make a fire, are closed.

How to Make Bleach

how to make bleach google trend

This seems reasonable given the current state of affairs. For the record, equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water will do the disinfectant trick!

How to Purify Water

how to purify water google trend

This one seems a little less reasonable. Right now, the best way to obtain clean water is straight from your tap, not sucking it out of a puddle in your backyard.

But, if you must know, check out our handy list of best backpacking water filters and purifiers.

How to Cut Your Own Hair

how to cut your own hair google trend

Sure, you can cut your own hair. But should you? Maybe let those freaky locks go — or shave your head. Either way.

Condom Shortage

condom shortage google trends

We get it, a bunch of us are shacked up with a significant other — birds, bees, and all that. But this particular query spiked this week after Bloomberg reported Thailand’s largest condom manufacturer hit maximum output.

Best Guns for Self-Defense

best guns for self defense google trend

OK, you’re worried people are going to try and steal all your toilet paper and condoms. That’s fine. However …

Gun Safety

gun safety google trend

… One would hope you’d see a similar spike in “gun safety” demand. But, according to Google Trends, folks are more interested in buying guns than actually learning how to use them responsibly. C’mon folks, let’s up this number too.

Flights to Antarctica

flights to antarctica google trend

Interest in travel to Antarctica is always erratic. But we can’t help but notice that exactly when news of a pandemic began to spread, people became especially curious about flying to the bottom of the Earth. Good luck with that.

How to Build a Boat

how to build a boat google trend

Here’s one we can get behind — learn to sail the open seas. Build your own boat. To be fair, the high point for “how to build a boat” actually occurred last year. But that got us thinking: If building a boat didn’t top out during the pandemic, maybe …

How to Steal a Boat

how to steal a boat google trend

… There it is. Way to go, humanity. It’s been touch-and-go these last 5 years, but people were most interested in stealing someone else’s boat right as the U.S. started to see its first cases of coronavirus.

Learn Sign Language

sign language google trend

Why suddenly such a keen interest in picking up sign language? Our best guess: Some experts have suggested that certain languages actually spread the virus through droplets more readily than others. And what better way to say-it-not-spray-it than to speak with your hands?

Where Can I Buy a Tiger?

buy a tiger google trendSure, you watched “The Tiger King.” Yes, tiger cubs are cute. But didn’t you learn from the show? No. Just, no.

How to Help

how to help google trend coronavirus

What do you say we end it on a high note? Lest you think people are resigned to selfishly hoarding supplies and avoiding all human contact, the simple search “how to help” saw its highest volume in the last week.

Here’s FEMA’s guide on how to help, and here’s a guide on the best ways to support nurses and healthcare workers battling the pandemic every single day.

Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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