Digging In: A Look Back at 2009

As promised, change came.

The year 2009 swept in on a tide of history, with presidential highs and economic lows. Extraordinary moments became common occurrences this year, with a new White House boss, global economic brinksmanship, and mini tech-revolutions. People dug in to do the hard work and stayed home to build up their reserves.

For some, though, change in the air meant a chill wind. Many dug in their heels against the ways of big government and big business. Whatever side people were on—and even if they were sitting on the sidelines—they were online, tracking the stories (and welcome distractions) throughout the year. Here are the standout stories of 2009 through the prism of Yahoo! Search:

Contagions: As H1N1 made its circuit around the globe, people took to the Web trying to sort myths (“can my dog catch swine flu“), misspellings (“swan flu”), and mysteries (“what is swine flu“). The pandemic became more worrisome when it was clearer who was most afflicted: young children and seemingly healthy teenagers and young adults. It was also a year—and a heated summer—in which Americans argued over the extent to which the government should reform a broken health care system.

Politics as Unusual: The steady political diet of the past two years still sustained many online political junkies, but tales of campaign slugfests turned into kamikaze stories of self-destruction.

Being tagged a GOP 2012 hopeful became a curse, as bystanders of all political affiliations shook their heads at Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s inadvertent mimicry of Kenneth on “30 Rock,” Nevada Sen. John Ensign’s extramarital affair, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s self-exile from the governor’s mansion, and—strangest of all—South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s trek that took him from the Appalachian Trail to Argentina. Not that Democrats got a pass—paternity questions surrounding former presidential hopeful John Edwards were revived.

Oh, and those politicians’ wives who used to suffer in silence? Book deals.

Credit Crunched: Despite the bailouts (and the bonuses) for Wall Street and business “too big to fail,” the common citizen wasn’t feeling stimulated—not with foreclosures, credit crunches, and unemployment at record highs. The stimulus-package anchor may have stopped the downward slide toward the abyss, but people weren’t feeling happy about where they ended up.

Reality Mayhem: Who could track what Britney, Paris, and Lindsay were doing, with all the celebrity men behaving badly? Singer Chris Brown’s arrest spurred discussion of the ugly issue of domestic violence, and Kanye West’s version of “Swift”-boating earned him hate tweets.

Some of the biggest real-life dramas, though, happened on the small screen: Jilted bachelorette Melissa Rycroft got a second chance at stardom and love, the Gosselin marriage disintegrated, and the world witnessed a bizarre reality-show audition that involved a helium balloon, an amateur storm-chaser, and his 6-year-old son, whose conscience got the better of his digestive system.

All a-Twitter: At first, Twitter was something Ashton Kutcher did when he wanted to complain about the neighbors. The year 2009 proved to be a turning point in social networking, as celebrities and journalists jumped on the bandwagon (and Kutcher challenged CNN to get the most followers). People tweeted on the fly, updated their status on Facebook, and tracked breaking news, mundane incidents, and guilty pleasures more than ever. After all, with all that staycation, what else is there to do but communicate?

In Memoriam: The word “icon” was invoked repeatedly with shocking deaths, sad passings, and unexpected departures. In the TV arena, David Carradine‘s apparently accidental hanging exposed a startling private life, while Ed McMahon’s end reminded us about the importance of sidekicks. Farrah Fawcett‘s strength to the end underscored the sex symbol’s dignity. The unexpected death of pitchman Billy Mays inspired many tributes. Then there were the giants who spanned decades and left a legacy, such as Walter Cronkite in broadcast journalism and Ted Kennedy in American legislature.

King of Pop Michael Jackson’s sudden passing stunned the world. Questions persist over his death, but the loss restored the luster of his legacy.

No. 44: In the eight years that Yahoo! has been keeping track, candidate Barack Obama was the first politician ever to crack the Top 10 list, in 2008. This year, he slipped off the Top 10 list and right into the No. 44 presidential slot. A Search blow? Not really: Despite being in the headlines all the time, he topped all politician queries and spurred many issue-related searches on Guantanamo, Afghanistan, credit care bill, stimulus package, and more. Besides, people knew where to find him.

And More… The 2009 Yahoo! Year in Review explores some of the biggest themes from 2009, term by term, trend by trend…and there will be a lot more to parse from this jam-packed year. Coming soon: Floods of biblical proportion that soaked the Midwest and the Philippines, the “Obama effect” on firearm sales, the printed word’s death toll (at least on paper), media feuds, strange happenings in South Carolina, walkouts, apologies, vampire revivals…

Yes, 2009 was a head-spinning year. Come on back for updates.

(image source:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/world/europe/06search.html?_r=0)