Using various aspects of our lives as indicators of our “personality types” has become a veritable hobby, it seems, for many of my friends on social media. It’s fun to answer a few questions about your coffee order, your favorite TV show characters, what kind of words best describe your attitude towards food, and then find out all about your innermost desires and whether you’re a good friend or not.
And yes, we all know these games are not particularly scientific, but that is not my point.
It just makes me wonder what it is about us as humans in 2016 which drives us to take and post these quiz results so often.
I don’t think it’s really that we want to know these things about ourselves. In fact, I would guess that a fair amount of the results which get posted to social media only appear there after the desired result has been obtained. Certainly, I’m guilty of picking the answers I think will give the “correct” answer. Or, you know, taking the “Which Incarnation of the Doctor Are You” until I get the one I want.
Clearly, what we really like about these quizzes is the opportunity to tell people about ourselves — the selves we want to present, at least — in a way which draws positive attention. You also took the “Can We Guess How Old You Are Based On Your Taste In Cheese” quiz? I like cheese, too! And look how mature it says I am! Clearly, I’m cultured and stuff. Of course, we could also just wait for friends to mention that they like cheese and take the opportunity to strike up a virtual conversation about all the cheeses we like, hoping that the positive parts of our obviously mature and cultured personality shine through.
But that would just be weird.
Essentially, though, the drive to take and post these little contrived insights into ourselves is the same drive we have to make public shows of our inclusion in certain groups. We want people to know certain things about us, to think certain things about us, and it simply doesn’t work to go around telling people how smart or generous or healthy or pious we are. But if we adopt certain labels, certain routines, certain affiliations, those qualities become implied.
This is especially true about our spiritual and religious affiliations.
The faiths with which we identify say things about us. And even if they say different things to those who share our faith than they say to those who don’t, that information exchange is socially important. In fact, I would venture to say it’s one of the primary functions of religion. A declaration of a particular faith is social shorthand for what kind of person others should expect you to be. It says much about who we want to be associated with and who we don’t.
The kicker is, though, that we give more thought to the image we’re trying to portray than we give to what others are trying to tell us. I bet that most of us, when we see our friends posting quiz results online, are more interested in seeing our own results than we are in the results of others. We make quick judgments about how honest we think our friends are being, and then move on. And that’s fine when we’re talking about silly social media content.
But maybe when it’s more important to us, like our spiritual values, we should be more attentive and less reactionary. Certainly, we all have opinions of other faiths and religions which we use to categorize people, often negatively, and not all of those opinions are wrong or useless. But if we gave thought to what people think they are conveying to us — the stuff they want us to respect about their values and viewpoints — our religious dialogue might not be quite as contentious.