Have you taken one of those online tests to see what color you are, what band you are, what state you should live in, or what cartoon character you are? I already know what cartoon I am: Tommy Pickles, but that wasn’t on the list. Therefore, the list is junk.
Okay, they are pretty fun but the socio-analyst in me is about to make an appearance.
Seriously though, am I the only one who is beginning to feel bothered by the growing frequency and popularity of these? Harmless? Let’s think about these for a minute. First, lets look at the ingredients for a successful viral quiz (that’s what I’m calling them).
– Universal topic of interest or identity (Location, passion, fortune).
– Promising tagline, “Who will you marry?” “Which president are you.”
– Simple, recognizable answers to questions.
– Iconic images.
– General, broad results leaving the test taker feeling somewhat connected to the result, if not right on.
Did I miss anything?
These quizzes seem harmless but my worry is growing that people actually are going to seek these for wisdom. Seem farfetched? Open your news paper or find the link on your favorite news website to the horoscope section. There you will see yourself in just about every one of the astrological categories. People seriously depend on that sort of source for their daily guidance, so what has you convinced that a simple quiz from one of the numerous buzz-sites wouldn’t creep its way into a persons conscience? If I’m right, even a little, then the criteria input for these quizzes is an alarming thought.
Take the latest quiz at Buzzfeed for example, “What is your purpose in life?” Take a look at the criteria: which bird are you, what’s your dream job, pick a situation… The subject of one’s purpose and the cartoon they best represent are at two ends of a spectrum but they both have one thing in common that is important to all: identity.
That’s my problem: these quizzes promote a false sense of identity. It doesn’t matter how fun these things are. Think about your legacy. We can joke about sex and it might just be a joke, but sooner or later (likely sooner) your mind is trained to linking sexuality with a false identity, like it’s something to be joked about. What makes us think these quizzes aren’t taking their toll? They are a form a media. In fact, they are the most influential form of media because we interact with it by placing our personal identity as an input in order to consume an output. The output is never that you are “like” a thing, but that you “are” a thing. Something of this speaks graveness to me.
Why do they promote a false sense of identity? Because they require a false set of data. That is, they use false means of using information to determine an outcome. This is a huge problem with our culture and society. Fundamentalism, relativism, proportionalism, consequentialism have each crept their way into our homes, our media, and our minds have convinced our society that “anything goes”. Well, anything doesn’t go. Our Church has been in this battle for a few centuries. We’ve been fighting philosophical heretics like Descartes, Hume, Nietzsche, and possibly worst of all, Emmanuel Kant, the father of relativism. These men were not generals, not presidents, not politicians but their words had a lasting effect on people, and soon those ideas took form in society.
What does our Church teach, then? That our identity is given by God alone, in whose image we are created. We are taught that moral determination is made by understanding the object (the act itself), the circumstance, and the intention, if any of which is missing from the moral equation then the act is sinful. Purpose? We are created to have a relationship with our creator, who we can know through his actions, divine revelation, and whose will is exposed through daily prayer.
Need to know what state you should live in? Take a look at local politics and tax codes, not scenery or fast-food restaurants (though, I do admit I miss me some Steak and Shake). I’m not saying one cannot take one of these quizzes, just don’t fall in the trap of being influenced by their undertones.