Agence France-Presse A computer user in Singapore looks at a website of now Member of Parliament Tin Pei Ling in April 2011, before the May 7 parliamentary elections in Singapore. In a year that saw a surprising flurry of political activity in the often-quiet city-state, Singapore’s youngest Member of Parliament Tin Pei Ling was the most-searched personality in 2011, trumping now-deceased Amy Winehouse and Steve Jobs, according to Google’s annual Zeitgeist list.
The Zeitgeist list, which takes its name from the German word meaning “spirit of the times,” aims to offer a unique perspective on the year’s major events and trends based on searches conducted on google.com.sg.
The Google Zeitgeist list — which the tech giant compiles for many countries with their own Google search domains — provides an insight into the personalities and issues that have captured Singaporeans over the past year, which analysts say saw a small but significant political shift in the city-state. Ms.
Tin, now a Member of Parliament, was put forth by the ruling People’s Action Party in this year’s general election, running alongside former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.
The decision was questioned by many Singaporeans, who pointed to her husband’s position as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s personal private secretary, and considered her inexperienced and ignorant. A widely circulated picture of her posing with a Kate Spade bag quickly went viral, and invited comments accusing the 28-year-old of materialism and privilege. Also topping the search list were ex-Foreign Minister George Yeo and 25-year-old Nicole Seah, a young member of the opposition National Solidarity Party who ran against Ms.
Though some experts argue that Ms.
Tin was fronted by the PAP to appeal to a younger audience, they did not expect the negative and almost viral effect that her candidacy had on this year’s general election. “(Ms.
Tin) was supposed to be more savvy with new media than the older ones in the PAP,” said Andrew Loh, a social activist and blogger. “What transpired…put her under the spotlight in a way which the PAP had not intended.” He added that conversely, Ms.
Seah’s popularity “went through the roof” once the public became enamored with her as a counter to the PAP’s Ms.
Tin. In 2010, the only Singaporean politician to make the list of Google’s top searches was former Prime Minister and political giant Lee Kuan Yew, who was nowhere to be found the 2011 list. Despite many heralding social media as the force for political change in the past year’s general election, which saw a historically-narrow win for the PAP, influential political blogs like TheOnlineCitizen did not feature on Google’s list of top local blogs. “I am a little surprised,” said Mr. Loh, adding a caveat that “overtly political blogs” started from a much lower base of readers, so even with new readers picked up during the general election, they would still lag behind popular personality-driven blogs like Mr. Brown and Xiaxue . Mr. Brown was listed as the top local blog on Google. In tech-obsessed Singapore, the iPad 2, the rumored iPhone 5 and Samsung also grabbed top news searches over the year, along with news on the general elections, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and political uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
Teen pop sensation Justin Bieber topped the image search list in Singapore. Perhaps odd in a city-state that prides itself on diverse hawker fare – often featured by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and more recently, on “The Simpsons” – very American fare of pizza, pancakes and red-velvet cake were among the top food searches in Singapore. Hong Kong emerged as the top travel destination for Singaporeans, though beach getaway spots like the Maldives and Hawaii were also among those ranked highly.