What was life like in lockdown? by Christian Tate

For our book of infographics, An Answer For Everything, we wanted to capture the actual feeling of the Covid-19 lockdowns, that extraordinary experience we all went through but which is starting to fade from our collective memory already. So we approached Google and asked them for data on the searches which had spiked the most year-on-year during the weeks after a global pandemic was declared when as much as a third of the world was in lockdown. Our idea was that Google searches are likely to give the most honest account – people will lie to their partner, to their friends, to themselves, but they don’t lie to their search engine.

We put the searches out along a timeline, to evoke the changing experience of lockdown. It started with people panic-searching for toilet paper, trying to work out what a pandemic actually is and looking to see whether malaria drug hydroxychloroquine could really be a miracle cure. Then people started settling in for the long haul – searches for ‘boredom’, ‘exercise bike’, ‘paint roller’ went through the roof. In quick succession, ‘homeschooling’ spiked followed by ‘When will schools open’?

The data also showed up searches that had never been made before in significant amounts – for things like ‘social distancing’, ‘unmute on Zoom’ and ‘how to make your own McDonald’s’. Then finally came the saddest spike of all – for ‘How many people can attend a funeral?’ It is an infographic we are very proud of and which we believe captures another side to the Covid-19 pandemic than the medical data we often see displayed.