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In 2012, you asked Google 'what is love?' and searched for 'funny pictures'

Dec. 12, 2012 at 8:08 AM ET

Google's Zeitgeist 2012 — "an in-depth look at the 'spirit of the times' as seen through the billions of searches on Google over the past year" — was revealed on TODAY on Wednesday. Turns out that love, funny pictures, One Direction, and Whitney Houston were on our minds quite a bit this year. Oh, and let's not forget about Justin Bieber and Gangnam Style. (Google certainly couldn't.)

NBC News /
Whitney Houston

As Google spokesperson Daniel Sieberg explains, the top trending search in the U.S. this year was singer Whitney Houston, who died in early February. Hurricane Sandy and the election took up the second and third spots, respectively. This is how the top ten trending searches break down:

Mike Groll / AP /
In this Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 file photo, waves wash over a roller coaster from a Seaside Heights, N.J. amusement park that fell in the Atlantic
  1. Whitney Houston
  2. Hurricane Sandy
  3. Election 2012
  4. Hunger Games
  5. Jeremy Lin
  6. Olympics 2012
  7. Amanda Todd
  8. Gangnam Style
  9. Michael Clarke Duncan
  10. Kony 2012

Now those are just plain ol' search queries. When it comes to image searches, specifically, things play out a bit differently. The most searched images in 2012 were related to music sensation One Direction. (Pop heartthrob Justin Bieber only took fourth place on that particular list, which may dismay many teenage girls.) "Funny pictures" were the No. 2 most searched images in 2012 and while we're not entirely sure what people were hoping to see when they entered this search query, we hope they found something that made them chuckle. 

Save for the boyband in first place, Bieber, Nicki Minaj, and Selena Gomez, the most searched images all revolved around non-specific items or concepts … and the iPhone 5:

  1. One Direction
  2. Funny Pictures
  3. Nicki Minaj
  4. Justin Bieber
  5. Love
  6. Flowers
  7. Selena Gomez
  8. Heart 
  9. Money
  10. iPhone 5

What struck us beyond the top trending searches in the U.S. and the most searched images though, is a wider look at what's going on around the world. A blog post by Google senior vice president Amit Singhal on the official Google blog points out that in ten — yes, ten — different countries, the question '"what is love?" topped the lists of search queries. After all the searches for celebrity gossip, after all the queries revolving around mindless entertainment, after all the countless quests for the latest news — we're still left with the burning desire to understand the significance of human connections.

If that doesn't warm your heart just a bit on this chilly winter morning, I don't know what will. (Other than funny pictures of One Direction members hugging Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber while holding an iPhone 5 perhaps.)

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