The Influence of Quizzes on Self-Identity

Amazon Prime has released its second season to one of the most real, heart-warming shows on its platform, Modern Love. The show itself is a romantic anthology series based on true love columns written for the New York Times, Modern Love. One episode this season, titled “Am I… Maybe This Quiz Will Tell Me” struck me in particular. Originally written by Katie Heaney, the episode looks into the life of a middle-school-aged girl that turns tox Buzzfeed quizzes to verify her sexuality. Although a bit cinematically different from its authentic portrayal, the episode reflects Heaney’s main theme: the complexity of finding oneself through social media quizzes. Which leads many to question, how can you find the answer of who you are based simply on what social media tells you? Should you rely on media algorithms to define your identity?

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The Reality of Quizzes

Quizzes can be fun and a great way to socialize with others. They allow us and our friends, family, etc. to get to know the opinionated, outer-version, of ourselves. For instance, it’s fun to know whether or not you and your friends prefer one platform (Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) over another. Nevertheless, should these quizzes determine whether or not you should remain friends with one another due to your differing interests? Can these quizzes truly tell you who and what you should be? One crucial understanding is for certain, these quizzes can unequivocally give you a clear-cut answer, but they will mostly not reflect who you are holistically. 

Social media influences how we wish to be seen externally. For example, we post Instagram pictures of ourselves in order to project ourselves in a certain light. That said, social media builds certain stereotypes in how we are expected to be seen in comparison to who we are. From Buzzfeed to Facebook, social media quizzes generate these same external expectations for ourselves. When taking a quiz to determine questions we have about ourselves, we may choose answers that reflect the outcome we wish to receive. These actions, conscious or subconscious, lead back to our need to verify ourselves based on what we already know. With this being said, taking a social media quiz to determine our identities can, on the contrary, help us understand ourselves. 

Yes, it’s true that objective media sources cannot outrightly tell you what you want to know or who you necessarily are. However, they can reinforce what you wanted to hear all along. As UC Davis’s college professor, Simon Vazire, explains in The Atlantic article “The Dark Side of That Personality Quiz You Just Took”, quizzes can summarize the information that you applied in order to receive a response that resembles the outcome you wished to receive. With this knowledge, girls+ can analyze the answers they sought from the beginning, those that may or may not have appeared before interacting with a quiz. In other words, looking for quizzes to answer a particular question may suggest that the answer is within you all along. While taking quizzes, we often find ourselves attempting to reaffirm what it is we already know about ourselves. We may be seeking an answer that is internal after all.

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Identity Crisis or Identity Awareness?

As illustrated above, quizzes can (in some ways) allow us to become more aware of our own identities. Rather than allowing quizzes to define who we are as individuals, we can choose to examine our own actions in taking certain quizzes. Most of us feel the urge to compare ourselves to others, to feel “normal” according to societal and media ideals. Quizzes seem to give us this satisfaction. However, the essential point that we must remember is that we all superseded normalization. Categorizing ourselves into certain boxes, especially ones that may answer how gay you might be based on which films you’ve seen, should not reflect how you identify to the world and to yourself. These results, whether they do or do not confirm what you may already know, must not be taken wholeheartedly or uncritically. 

Personality quizzes that traffic and dictate stereotypes should not have the authority to impact your own growth. Take Fabiola’s (played by Lee Rodriguez) experience into consideration from Netflix’s popular show, Never Have I Ever. As Rodriguez explains her own experience with coming out in TeenVogue’s article, she explains the significance of not validating who you are to others. This mentality coincides with what her own character experienced in the most recent season of the show. In an attempt to fit in, Fabiola struggles with her own queer identity as her interests differ from her queer peers. But as Rodriguez also acknowledges, “Sometimes you are so influenced by what everybody else is doing that you lose sight of who you are” (USA Today). We ought to allow social media to emphasize who we are but never let social media allow us to lose sight of who we are

This realization also applies to the social media quizzes you take. It may seem fun to take a quiz that answers what percentage of gay you are. Although, attempting to answer a question that quizzes fit into a certain criterion, a certain stereotype even, does not allow us to openly be ourselves. We must embrace our intersectional identities rather than solely define ourselves by the result we received on our most recent social media quiz. Notely Heaney asks herself, “Why did I imbue an amateurish, made-up, misspelled four-question quiz with more authority than I granted myself?” You must also ask yourself this same question. Rather than allowing an outer (oftentimes) misinformed source to tell you who you are, girls+ shall empower themselves knowing the correct answer to any social media quiz is within themselves all along. 


Happy National Coming Out Day!

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Aryana Martin, Editorial Intern, is a student at Emmanuel College in Boston, Mass. She studies English with a double minor in Sociology and African and African Diaspora Studies. She’s passionate about reading, writing, learning, and creating new relationships and experiences. She is thrilled to contribute to the MEDIAGIRLS mission.

Special shoutout to Katherine Lynch and Victoria Harding for their support and enlightening feedback for this piece.

Featured image courtesy of Sergey on Product Placement Blog

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