It’s funny how things are cyclical in the world, especially in the cyber-world. I remember a few years ago when quizzes on Facebook were very popular and then were suddenly not. Anyone could make a quiz, and usually they were these ridiculously-themed mini-tests that assessed your value as a person based on your favorite bird, your knowledge of the Andy Griffith Show, or your ability to remember an amazing amount of inane and useless information ala Trivial Pursuit.
However, people got tired of them because it became painfully obvious that they were…
A) mostly so grossly inaccurate that even the most naïve person couldn’t suspend belief long enough to buy into their results
B) so poorly constructed you could figure out your result or manipulate it by the second question
C) had so many misspellings you could tell they were made by amateurs
D) and most importantly, they were just no fun
Why did we take these quizzes anyway? Why do we take any quizzes outside of academia? I’ve thought about this, and I really don’t know, but I can speculate. I think we humans are always assessing ourselves, especially in relation to others and their ideas of what is typical. Or we’re always looking for that one piece of information from an outside observer that will give us some insight that confirms some belief about ourselves or enlightens us to who we really are.
How many people have clicked on a quiz about “Which Disney princess are you?” in a harmless quest to find some bit of self-affirmation (Ariel is my favorite and I know I’ll get her! What? I’m Mulan? WTF!) only to discover it’s just a bunch of questions written by a Disney fan that basically categorizes you as Snow White if you answer “Yes” to Question 7?
Apparently a lot, because I watched the evolution of FB quizzes from everyone taking them to only newbie Facebook users who didn’t know any better taking them to never seeing them ever. Lately, though, I’ve noticed a quiz comeback. These are new and improved quizzes—at least they look that way. Unlike the old quizzes, I’ve not seen dozens of typos and some of the questions are well constructed, although I feel like I can still manipulate the results somewhat by my responses. Strangely, though, even my veteran FB pals—people who have seen every smarmy come-on social media has to offer—are taking them and posting their results, along with funny comments.
Out of curiosity, I’ve taken some of these quizzes. I don’t post the results, but I find them kind of amusing. Some are spot on—why, yes, I do wear purple jammies and eat organic bread—but others are so far off I cringe. At least I think they’re pretty far off. Who knows? Perhaps somewhere deep in my heart I really had a desire to become a lemur specialist at a petting zoo or be a go-go dancing IRS representative. Only FB knows for sure.
I think that, like the Web itself, its users grow and change. We remember the quizzes designed to do nothing but waste time and suck as much life out of us as the first generation of dorky FB games, and we’ve matured enough to know taking one of these new quizzes will net us no earth-shaking epiphanies about ourselves or anyone else. They will, however, generate discussion and maybe some moments of much-needed levity in a sometimes too intense world. Isn’t that what being social is all about?