Jan 28, 2014

Why is Hawai`i so expensive?

This isn’t about why Hawai`i is so expensive, but as it happens it is the first word that comes up on google search when you put in the question “Why is Hawaii so…”

Thanks to the Huffington post which says “thanks to the Twitter account @Amazing_Maps, we now have an idea of how the Internet stereotypes all 50 U.S. states. When a search phrase like “Why is Illinois so…” is typed into Google, the search engine autocompletes the sentence with the word that people most commonly write in the search bar next. In this way, Google autocomplete may reveal the deeply held assumptions the public holds about a state.”

So Hawaii is grouped with Alaska, California and New York as “expensive”.  The subsequent words that come up for Hawai`i are “hot” (I googled that and 160,000,000 results came up in six-tenths of a second.  All of them were about weather, not whether Hawaii was hot as in cool). After hot, there is popular, beautiful and warm.  According to google searches, Louisiana is racist, Iowa is important, Oregon is good and Massachusetts is smart.  Oddly enough, at least to me, Connecticut is haunted.  I completely do not get that.

Just for fun I googled “why is Google so…” and I got, in order, slow,  stupid, and awesome.  Twitter and Facebook share many of the same descriptors, including valuable, addictive and successful.

I think this Internet search thing is an indicator of the dumbing down of our society.  After all the news about the reddening of North Carolina, the state comes up first as “cheap”.  That being said, further down the line (and not very far) is the question “Why is North Carolina so backward?”  Now that is something I would like to know, especially because it happened so fast and before our very eyes.  I googled it.  The first thing that came up in a search with over 5 million results was www.NCbackward.com which “chronicles North Carolina’s inexorable march backward.”

I googled “Why is Washington D.C. so” and the word democratic was the first to pop up, followed by dangerous and liberal.  Given the current climate, I thought it might join Illinois as “corrupt.”

When I was working in the advertising business, our parent company DDBNeedham had a brilliant research guy who essentially invented psychological research testing for the ad industry.  His name was Bill Wells.  He once told me that you could tell what the dominant characteristic of a city was by sitting in restaurants and listening to what people were talking about.  This was thirty years ago, before Google, and pretty much before internet searches had a chance to catch up with national prejudice.   Have I mentioned this before?  Oh well.  It is always interesting to me.  Chicago, where he worked, is about “work.”  New York is about “money.”  Los Angeles is about “the deal” and Washington is about “power”.

Recently, I asked my friend Dennis Gillespie what one word, in the Bill Wells tradition, described Hawai’i.  He didn’t say “expensive.”  He said “generous.”

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Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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