By 2015, we know not to trust Google.
Search results are a patchwork quilt shoddily tailored to include our browsing history, physical location and the things an algorithm tells the machine we may be interested in.
Despite this, Google has become a social appendage. We run to her at the drop of a hat, with even the smallest shred of doubt, imploring her to settle a debate at a birthday party or to help us find the best price for hangers.
Google is our transitional object, our blankie, our mother or father onto whom we pin the hope that the answer to everything can be found with the punch of a thumb and the tap of a finger.
After realizing last week that, as a woman, I apologize for nearly everything and to nearly everyone, my first instinct was to ask Google why.
I typed the words "why do women," but before I could add "apologize," I was amazed at what Google suggested I ask instead.
The top five results were:
Why do women cheat
Why do women like 50 shades of grey
Why do women moan
Why do women wear thongs
Why do women wear hijab
The same exact prompt for men resulted in these autocompletes:
Why do men cheat
Why do men watch porn
Why do men lie
Why do men pull away
Why do men go bald
The UN Women's ad series from 2013 brilliantly examined the ways that Google autocomplete reflects widespread sexism in the world, but what's equally interesting about the above is the relationship the female autocompletes have to their male counterparts.
The top question on all of the Internet -- why do men and women cheat -- is oddly encouraging. Our basest fear of being cheated on (or cheating ourselves) trumps all barriers of sexism and inequality.
The next couple of questions, however, betray deeply rooted inquiries into sex and power dynamics.
"Why do women like 50 shades of grey" and "why do women moan" -- versus "why do men watch porn" and "why do men lie."
Book one of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy was released in 2012, causing an international sexual flurry, and the film, which came out this past Valentine's Day, grossed over $568 million worldwide.
The story's exploration and fetishizing of sex, bondage and power (I haven't read it -- I couldn't even make it through the sample on my Kindle) is in some ways paralleled to the male autocomplete "why do men watch porn?"
"Why do women moan" and "why do men lie" pose further questions about sexuality, shame and expression.
Do these autocompletes pop up because they are the most unanswered and pondered questions in our society -- or is it because they are the things we won't ask each other out loud?
Are Google searches really just a road map to our deepest insecurities?
The next set of questions tie directly into the ones that preceded them. "Why do women moan" is followed by "why do women wear thongs." Sex Ed 101: We want to better understand female sexuality. And my guess is it's not just men asking.
It seems safe to assume that the gender divide on the Internet is pretty equal. In other words, if an equal number of men and women are cruising the slippery slope of the World Wide Web, then we can guess that both men and women are typing the questions "why do women moan" and "why do women wear thongs."
Are men asking because they like that some women moan and that some women wear thongs? Are women who neither moan nor thong asking out of an insecurity -- wondering if in fact they should moan during sex and should wear a specific type of underwear?
Are human beings most perplexed -- or threatened -- by female sexuality, and equally perplexed by the male psyche? Evidence is found in the following questions: "why do men lie" and "why do men pull away." These are emotional questions, while their female counterparts are sexual and physical. Lying and pulling away both indicate a lack of intimacy, a barrier that the hypothetical man desires. The opposite of closeness and trust -- two specific things that most humans desire when engaging in sex.
The final pair of questions veers into the world of appearances -- how we look to others and how we look to ourselves. But they aren't as basic as they seem.
"Why do women wear hijab" is a question that combines so many topics at the forefront of our international discussions today: power, religion, femininity, control, culture and conflict.
"Why do men go bald" reveals concern over changing appearance, fear of a decline in attractiveness or virility and, in some ways, anxiety over the loss of power that occurs as one grows older.
Many of the questions on both lists are about power and control. But if people are asking them, then we have to assume that they want to know the answers. There is a burning desire for better understanding, a closing of the gap between how we act and who we are.
I started down this rabbit hole asking why women apologize so much.
The set of autocompleted questions for women are about sex and sexuality. The questions for men are about failure. What does this reveal about our insecurities? Is our biggest fear that women are uncontrollable sexual beings and that men will disappoint them?
Google may be our one-stop shop for instant answers: What year did Cruel Intentions come out? 1999. Is Hillary Clinton spelled with one or two L's? Two. But when it comes to deeper questions about what makes us human, it looks like the only source we can fully trust is -- frighteningly -- each other.
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