Monday, May 5, 2014

A Love Letter to Quizzes

Dear quizzes,

I guess this can go back to assigning things, in a way, but not really. Because this is more...I don't know. This is more.

Yesterday my dad sent me an article called "Why Are Social Media Quizzes So Popular?" and my first thought was, obviously: um, because they're fucking awesome.

I love internet quizzes. At first taking them was kind of fun, but now it's a full-blown obsession. I'm fascinated.

I'm not linking the article my dad shared because it's stupid and it's basically an advertisement for the Chicago theater scene, full of clickable cues to determine which character you are from Sound of Music or Peter and the Starcatcher. Also, what the devil is Peter and the Starcatcher? The article doesn't let you know, but it's playing at the Goodman. No, sorry, it's playing at the Bank of America Theater. Honestly? Who gives a shit?

And then, in the most telling fashion, the article lists and links all of these quizzes you can take, and how theaters are using these quizzes to do absolutely fucking nothing. They're doing it for the clicks. Theater employees even explicitly admit they don't know how to use the data they're collecting to their advantage, which is probably why they're in media.

Well done, college. People like to write stuff, and no one can draw a fucking conclusion that isn't a personal preference. This, by the way, is why I hate Buzzfeed.

But I loooooooooooooooove their quizzes.

Sometimes I feel like the way a quiz is worded lets me understand the motivations behind changes in pop culture. When Buzzfeed asks which city we would like to visit, do their marketing algorithms change the ads I see to echo my choice?  I mean, if they're not doing that they're idiots.

Why do quizzes ask about food? Pick a Beyonce? Pick a social media platform? Pick a sunset? What is the relevance of these things now, after a year's worth of collected information? Do they write quizzes on a whim, or are they specifically tailored to learn something about their audience? I'm trying to figure it out. It's probably Google's fault. Fucking Google. Google is the worst.

Major money-making websites generate a massive amount of income by creating pointless quizzes that we choose to share. The company thinks anyone who pays attention is their target audience. They will pay attention again. "Keep them doing useless fucking crap," says the company, "maybe we can sell it to someone who knows what to do with aggregated data."

Apparently people cheat on these quizzes to yield an expected result. Because...why? They're trying to create a way for people to identify them, so people will see them the way they want to be seen. So as far as the audience is concerned, it's is less important for them to find they're own voice than to be told that they identify with an already substantiated voice.  That's's so sad.

That meas we're a society of personal branding instead of a society of people. That is terrible. How is it that some 20-year old asshole that works at Buzzfeed is granted the authority to determine which character I am from Star Wars? Why do I believe Buzzfeed? Why am I happy or dissatisfied with my result? WHY DO I GIVE A SHIT?

The article, by the way, doesn't deal with any of these questions, and that pisses me off. But maybe the most telling thing about the article is that without saying anything, the message is clear: social media quizzes are popular because companies are telling us they're relevant, and we believe them. Pop culture is about money, which means it does not reflect the culture, it controls it. I give a shit because Buzzfeed and Facebook tell me to give a shit.

Look at that: they are telling me they are relevant, so what did I do? I spent an entire post trying to fucking justify their relevance.

Goddammit, they are villainous, dexterous, bastardous geniuses. I love quizzes.



This Love Letters series is for true. Click here for the list so far.

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