Google has experienced this many times; for instance the famous Brady Bunch question from the US version of "Who wants to be a Millionaire", or their ability to track cold and flu outbreaks by the level of related queries.
The same thing happened last night.
When the earth moved in east of Melbourne in Victoria (with the largest earthquake in 109 years), many of us sought to communicate with our friends, family and loved ones. iTWire wrote last night of the sudden surge in Twitter and Facebook activity, but there was an equally strong surge in the use of the telephone at the same time.
Telstra has reported a HUGE increase in calls immediately following the quake.
According to Telstra, there was a four-fold increate in call numbers in the moments after the earthquake; SMS levels were also double the normal rate in the hour following the event.
Telstra Director of Network and Commercial Planning, Anthony Goonan, said that while social media was quick to report the trend, in a situation like an earthquake people clearly prefer to be connected and talk to each other about their experience.
'We have innovative technology to monitor calling patterns on our network to optimise performance and delivery of services. What it showed is the impact of the earthquake in a very short time span and how customers really reached for the phone to talk to people,' Mr Goonan said.
'Our biggest spike in call numbers was noticed immediately at the time of the earthquake, at 9.00pm, and demand gradually returned to normal levels at around 10.20pm. The call traffic at its busiest was equivalent to our peak call volumes in the day.
'We can look at the dynamic demand handled by Telstra's Mobile Network by looking at numbers of calls made on network base station infrastructure and create maps to show the extent of the incident and how different areas talked about it.
'An incident like this really reinforces the community benefit of the investment that we have made in our network to help people stay connected at times like these. Even then there may be times because of the size of the peak some customers may have to make a repeat attempt to get access the network. Thankfully this earthquake was short in time and caused little damage, but the data clearly shows how people respond and why we place such an emphasis on continuing to build our Next G® network enabled with 3G and 4G technologies,' Mr Goonan said.
This image demonstrates the call volume period over the time of the earthquake: