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Signs of the times

SOCIAL networking. Sensational or controversial news involving women, politicians or celebrities.

If our searches on the internet are indications of what we as a nation or society are concerned or curious about, then these were the topics that most internet users in Malaysia were interested in over the past year, according to Google Zeitgeist 2009.

The annual year-end Google Zeitgeist tries to capture “the spirit of the times” through the aggregation of search queries made on Google. And looking at the search trends in 2009, internet users in Malaysia have been actively socialising or networking on online platforms like Facebook, Friendster, MySpace, Twitter and Tagged. Google says these were among the top search topics in 2009.

What about the people who were the top newsmakers in 2009? Move over, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Move over, MCA president and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, who has been busy disclosing information on the Port Klang Free Zone scandal on the one hand and containing the MCA crisis on the other. “It was … a year that saw new faces, led by YouTube sensation Zee Avi in the entertainment field and politician Elizabeth Wong on the newsmakers list,” Google says.

Zee Avi (Pic by twentyeightdeep
@ Flickr / Wiki commons)
Born in Sarawak, singer, songwriter and musician Zee Avi was the most popular entertainer searched on Google Malaysia in 2009. Hers is a story that demonstrates how talent can get the break it needs through the internet. She posted her videos on YouTube in 2007, and eventually caught the attention of international producers.

Zee Avi has since recorded her debut album, a joint release from Ian Montone’s Monotone Label and Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records. She is also slated to perform in the Lilith Fair music touring festival in 2010, which was set up by Sarah McLachlan, Dan Fraser, Marty Diamond and Terry McBride in 1997 to celebrate women musicians.


If search topics are indeed a reflection of what society is interested in, what does it say about Malaysian society that Elizabeth Wong, Manohara Odelia Pinot and Zakiah Anas were the top three newsmakers in 2009?


To me, it would be the keen interest in not just any news about them, but in personal details such as private photos or messy divorces, which tend to be sensationalised by some news media. It could be that there was more interest in the women than the men who were involved. Which explains why Hilmi Malek and even Kelantan prince Tengku Muhammad Fakhry Sultan Ismail Petra are nowhere on the list of newsmakers.

I’m happy to see how the internet has been instrumental in Zee Avi’s international success. I’m saddened, however, by the prevailing interest in sensational news that focuses on the objectification of women.

Here are the top 10 searches for selected categories to provide an idea of what else this nation was curious about.

  Fastest rising

1. Facebook login
2. Michael Jackson
3. Elizabeth Wong
4. Utusan Malaysia
5. Dragonica
6. Oh bulan
7. jobsmalaysia
8. Twitter
10. 4shared


  1. Elizabeth Wong
 2. Manohara Odelia Pinot
 3. Zakiah Anas
 4. Nizar
 5. Kartika
 6. Fasha Sandha
 7. Khalid Samad
 8. Najib
 9. Ong Tee Keat
 10. Sufiah Yusof


1. H1N1
2. Earth Hour
3. 1Malaysia
4. Budget 2010
5. 15 Malaysia
6. Khidmat negara 2010
7. Super typhoon Parma
8. Solar eclipse
9. Padang Indonesia
10. Tsunami 2009

   Most Popular

  1. Facebook
 2. Friendster
 3. Yahoo!
 4. MySpace
 5. Yahoo! Mail
 6. Gmail
 7. Berita Harian
 8. Tagged
 9. Malaysiakini
 10. YouTube


1. Zee Avi
2. Yuna
3. Hafiz AF
  (Akademi Fantasia)

4. Aril AF
5. Tiz Zaqyah
6. Julie Woon
7. Stacy
8. Tomok
9. Bunkface
10. Linda Onn

Cindy Tham listened to Zee Avi on MySpace while she wrote this column. She is taking a permanent break from Web Lyrical.

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