Sunday, June 15, 2014

Quzzle Me This, Facebook

In the TV Series Babylon 5, two of the most important questions asked were “Who are you?” and “What do you want?”by the Vorlons and the Shadows respectively. These two philosophies contrasted the difference between a life focused on the search for personal identity and a life consumed with fulfilling personal desires. (Like the ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipie!) The conflict between the two was one of the linchpins that held the whole series together. In fact, if you delve deeply into the series, you can find hints of more subtle psychological debates such as how we view ourselves through our friends, our family, and our society through the lens of these two questions...but I digress. Sort of.

This is not a post about Babylon 5. This is a post about the evils of Facebook personality quizzes.

Whoa, there, Nelly! Did Cannon just throw down the gauntlet and threaten the popular pastime of using favorite colors, imaginary TV characters, mystical auras, and sandwich combos to define a person’s character, station in life, choice of friends, and worthiness in society? And she’s implying that’s BAD? (I think I just made my point, but I digress again. Sort of.)

Okay, so before I really make someone mad, let me put in a disclaimer. I’m not a Ruth Graham, slamming anyone who doesn’t read “literature.” (Hold your nose up and add a little nasal wheeze into it when you say that word, just to emphasize the correct snobbish pronunciation.) If you want to take a Zimbio.com quiz on which Celebrity Bling Ring you deserve, that’s your right and your choice. Do so for fun. But read on. I digress. Sort of.

Facebook quizzes abound. Do you want to know “What is your Calling?” Bitecharge.com claims its 10 questions can tell you the answer. (By the way, I’m supposed to be a Saint according to this quiz. HA!) On Survley.com you can discover your “Mental Age” (Mine is 23, RIDICULOUS!). You can figure out “What Disney Movie Hero/Heroine You Are” on BuzzFeed.com (I got Anna from Frozen. Meh. Maybe.) And on and on we could go.

However...why do people take these quizzes? Why are they so popular? And are they good for you? Let’s do a little research and critical thinking here.

According to the February 24, 2014 New York Post article by the Associated Press, “Why Online Quizzes are Taking Over Your Facebook Feed,” these quizzes, like horoscopes and fortune cookies, are written so that the answers displayed are broad enough statements to apply to many people, but are couched in wording that sounds personal. They are an easy and fun time killer that don’t aggravate (many) people, and a fun way to share information about yourself with your friends.

On January 29, 2014, Slate posted a similar article by Emma Roller, “Which Type if Internet User Are You?” This article argues that as humans, we want to categorize our world, and Facebook quizzes cater to that desire. These quizzes simplify and define what is “you” so it is easier to understand and convey “you” to others.

In an article on the Huffington Post January 5, 2014, written by Laura Schocker, “This is Why Those Online Personality Quizzes Are So Irresistible,” she points out that online personality quizzes try to add to the narrative psychology of “you”, a sort of “create your own biography” in public. The quizzes offer a type of “self-awareness” of where one stands in the universe for the taker, for the friends of the taker, and allows all the parties to see where they fit in the universe together.

This is where I step in and help guide you along the reality check Yellow Brick Road.

1. When we make “broad statements” and “categorizations” about people, that’s called stereotyping. Stereotyping leads to drawing conclusions and profiling. Racism. Hatred. Pointless violence. Seriously, folks, I know I’m taking this a little more seriously than what the creators of these quizzes intended, but think about it: at its core, without critical thinking, human behavior almost always leads somewhere dark. And when you’re taking these quizzes, you aren’t critically thinking.

2.  Stereotyping yourself is just as bad as stereotyping others. When you start categorizing yourself into little boxes, you limit your capabilities. You start acting the way you’ve been told you’re supposed to act. (Seriously. Think about the last quiz you took and how you started acting afterward. Did you try to more “embody” the characteristics of that result? Hmm?) And furthermore, what does sharing the results of these quizzes with others do? Does it allow others insight into your “inner” self? Or does it merely show people the artificial little boxes you’ve stuffed yourself into?

3. Being “self-aware” has been a buzz-word for some time. Everyone wants to “know” him or herself. These quizzes can give you the illusion of “knowing” who you are, where you’re going, where you fit in the universe, where your friends fit in the universe, etc. This false sense of self-awareness can be heady. Yeah! I’m a Saint. Yeah! I’m Captain Picard. Yeah! I’m a diamond! But what validity do those quizzes have? Why do we need 10 random questions to tell us what to do with our lives or tell us we’re still young at heart? And why are we relying on outside validations to tell us we’re worth something?

The bottom line, in my humblest of opinions, is that these quizzes should be for entertainment and time-wasting purposes only. (And, yes, time-wasting does have its appropriate place in life!)

But I think we should keep in mind that every moment we spend on them, just like the moments we spend looking at Photoshopped models, we skew our view of the reality of the world. I’m one of the world’s worst about looking at pictures of myself and saying, “Who’s that fat chick?” even after losing a great deal of weight, even though according to my doctor, even though according to my health club stats, even though according to my husband, I’m healthy, fit, and good looking.

“Who are you?” and “What do you want?” are serious questions that we spend our entire lives seeking the answering. They can’t be solved with picking colors or elements, TV show characters or dog breeds. You have to dig within yourself and live--really LIVE--to find the real answers. So get off the computer and find your answers for yourself!

Critical thinking. Revise how you see the world, folks.

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Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
Revising Vs. Editing Deathmatch

On the menu for the future: an interview with Margot Dill (Editor 911) about her new book 
Caught Between Two Curses 

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories. Check it out!