The Theology of Google Autocomplete
By Jesse Carey
September 15, 2015
Jesse Carey is an editor at RELEVANT and a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.
In the last decade, Google has become so synonymous with looking for answers, that to “Google” something is a part of everyday life for almost anyone with an Internet connection. And, thanks to an algorithm that tracks every search in history, the search engine is getting smarter with each individual query. This makes the autocomplete feature a weird look into the collective questions plaguing modern culture and the thoughts of the masses.
We decided to plug a few faith-related questions and statements into the search field, and let autocomplete—which tries to guess what you are going to type based on the volume of searches it has seen in the past—tell us what people have been looking for.
The results weren’t always encouraging, but for Christians who are seeking to shape and influence culture, they can provide some interesting insight into the answers people want to know.
A quick note about our methodology: We paused all of our personal settings, so none of our past searches would influence the results. Also, we changed the location setting from local (using the IP address of where we were), to showing the entire U.S.
This one is the most discouraging. It seems that most people who turn to the Internet for answers about the Body of Christ mostly want to know why Christians are such a bummer. Hopefully, this is one area we can all be a part of changing.
It also seems Googlers are curious about Christians' bacon consumption.
In terms of Jesus, questions Google-users have about Christianity's central figure are all over the map, though they seem particularly concerned with the second coming. Also, there are a shockingly large number of people who are curious about whether Jesus has any ink.
On Sin and Salvation
Unsurprisingly, people seem pretty concerned about Hell and what is and isn't considered sin. But the questions about how salvation is obtained may be a sign that despite the prevalence of Christianity in culture, the Church needs to do a better job communicating some of our basic theology.
On Christian Practices
Considering there is frequent debate within Christian circles about issues like prayer, worship, the Church and reading the Bible, it's not all that surprising that Googlers have questions, too.
The autocomplete experiment isn't exactly an all-encompassing look at the cultural misunderstandings about faith and Christianity, but they do provide some insight into perceptions large numbers of people have, and the questions we can all do a better job addressing.
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