By Laura Moore
When you were fourteen years old, you flipped to the quiz section of YM or Seventeen or Cosmopolitan. Gazing over your left shoulder, and then your right, you made sure no one breathed within range of the tiny font before you, and then you proceeded to scrutinize every question the editors thought to ask.
Once you had your list of A, B, C, C, D, B, B, A, A, C, you flipped the page upside down, or you turned to the back and decoded the point system attributed to each of the responses. Then you added up your score, found the category that suited your number and read the ever-personal, deeply insightful analysis of your love life, your friendships, your potential to find happiness ever again. If you didn't like what it said, you went back to the questions you were unsure about, and you answered them differently. Then you re-added your points, and proceeded to move yourself from the less-than-ideal category and into the more desirable highly ideal category.
Once you got your categorical analysis, you beamed with the promise of life working out in some fantastic way at an undefined point in your future. You dismissed your mini dramas and fostered super secret crushes, and justified that because you found your way to the highly ideal category, at some point everything would work out.
I don't know if guys had the equivalent set of quizzes in their magazines, but I know these quizzes certainly played an entertaining role in the life of the teenage girls I knew. It didn't matter if the questions were irrelevant, or if none of the answers captured your feelings on any given issue; all that mattered was the fact that in return for choosing a response, you would get readily available advice, advice you couldn't possibly ask of another living soul.
Now, as a thirty-something, we get a new form of quizzes, upcycled like barn wood and brass chandeliers. Instead of walking off with trendy new floors or flashy new lights, by clicking on a link we are transported to mini quizzes where we can learn anything we could possibly want to know about our connection to T.V characters, the rainbow and various regions of the world.
Yesterday, after filling out a quiz asking "How Midwestern Are You?" and reading droves of commentary lagging from last weeks' quiz "How Bitchy Are You?" I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of the ritual, of me spending sixty seconds answering questions in an effort to read an analysis that was bound to be complete and utter bull schnikey.
As a general rule, every quiz seems to possess strange questions and even stranger responses, but despite recognizing this--and even stating it in the comment section when we post our results--we still love to read how our answers reveal convincing insights about how New York we are, which type of house we should live in, which city we should move to, which career we should have, which poet we would be like if we ever became a famous poet, which color matches our personality or which one represents our aura.
Given all of that, one would assume a reasonably intelligent person would elect to forgo the quiz links and focus, instead, on the news stories taking up a similar amount of screen space, but despite recognizing the flawed nature of the entire activity, engaging it just feels too darn satisfying. No matter how silly the questions are, it is fun to answer them, and then to have someone--or something--spew nice psychobabble about you just as soon as you finish the activity. Who doesn't want to hear a positive spin on our traits, or get answers that seem to confirm what we already believe to be true? Who doesn't want feedback (as long as it's positive) about our behaviors? And who doesn't want to feel validated and understood, even if it all comes at the hand of a generic algorithm?
As human beings, we are ego centric, but we are also communal. We want to know where the boundaries of normalcy and individuality digress and cross and bend and unfold. We want to know where we fit, who we are and who else is in our corner. We want to know that everything will be okay. These quizzes attempt to delve into all of that, and even if we know they're imperfect, we still accept them, we still take them, we still post them, we still comment on them and we still find amusement in them. While we are too grown up for YM, Seventeen and Cosmo, we're not too old for the droves of viral quizzes speeding down the online highway. We're not too old to post our results, and connect with other unrealized artists possessing orange personalities, and the destiny of owning a farmhouse in Paris.