Recently, I’ve felt an unstoppable urge–nay, compulsion–to devour a plethora of BuzzFeed quizzes each day. My routine goes a little like this: first I open BuzzFeed’s homepage, in giddy anticipation of perusing dozens of daily-made quizzes. Next, I forgo my better judgement as whatever vestige of rationality that lingers in my brain compels me to scroll. Last and most regrettably, I loiter for hours in an endless search of a quiz that promises to readily resolve all my existential woes and psychological anxieties.
I speak with conviction when I say that what began as a source of entertainment has now metamorphosed into a subliminal obsession. A BuzzFeed quiz used to be a fun escape from reality. After a while, it transformed into an idle hobby and method of procrastination. Then, before I knew it, quiz-taking became an opportunity for introspection and self-assessment rather than a humorously ludicrous enterprise.
It’s easy to categorize the two types of quizzes that most effectively draw my attention: first, the truth-revealing, and second, the one that prophesies your romantic future. A third high quality quiz variation by which I am deeply affected by but is less prominently featured, is but a particular favorite of mine: “Rate These Art History Booties and We’ll Reveal Your Renaissance Era Sexual Persona”.
If the results satisfy me, I’m happy. If not, I take the quiz again and tweak my answers to reflect the result I want. Undoubtedly, it is problematic that I take these quizzes either a) with a desired result in mind, b) already privy to the “deep personal truth” promised by the quiz to unveil, or c) in search of excessive self-validation.
Am I just narcissistic, or am I so insecure about myself that I need a computer algorithm to tell me who I am, what I like, what I want, and what I fear?
I began to realize the true and troublesome extent of my search for self-affirmation when I clicked, almost instinctively, on a quiz titled, “Arrange a cheese plate and we’ll reveal an unexpected truth about you”. The quiz is pretty much exactly what you think: a series of 7 questions in which the quiz-taker—you guessed it!—picks variations of cheese and hors d’oeuvres for their virtual appetizer platter. My result was as follows:
Upon reading BuzzFeed’s diagnosis I immediately internalized the result: Wow, I am a secretly super emotional person. I really do hide my feelings from the rest of the world, don’t I? BuzzFeed just gets me!
But after contemplating the absurdity of the sequence of events that had just transpired, and feeling ashamed by the unabashed enthusiasm with which I completed the quiz, it hit me: my desire for existential and psychological resolution had led to an unhealthy and completely ridiculous reliance upon a computerized qualification of the human condition for self-validation.
"My desire for existential and psychological resolution had led to an unhealthy and completely ridiculous reliance upon a computerized qualification of the human condition for self-validation." Audrey Osborn
Looking back, I have to ask myself: why was I so willing to place my trust in the capacity of a computer algorithm to assess my mental state and resolve my cognitive dissonance? I’m no psychologist, but I can say this: it’s not surprising that amidst the frenzied pace of technology-driven lives we might seek comfort in the stability of labels and self-classifiers provided by an external source. Unfortunately, and contrary to our deep-seated psychological need for validation and emotional support, the sad truth remains: labels conveniently supplied by BuzzFeed and the like are deceptive and illusory. They’re just vague enough to be all-encompassing, yet just idiosyncratic enough to convince you that they apply to you and you only.
Perhaps a healthier alternative would be to develop an awareness about the fact that no one knows exactly who they are as a person and we’re all just figuring it out along the way. Hopefully by acknowledging the universality of imperfection and uncertainty we can begin to forego our insatiable desire for answers to irresolvable existential questions.
Now, if only I could find a BuzzFeed quiz that would tell me if I was too obsessed with BuzzFeed quizzes…