What Social Media Personality Tests Say About Us
Over the last weeks and months, my social media feed has been a flood of personality tests. Sites like Buzzfeed and Zimbo roll out a new “Which character are you?” test every day. Across my friends’ Twitter and Facebook feeds, I’ve seen people post that this test told them what Disney villain they would be, that test shows they should be an entrepreneur, and the other test described what punk rock icon you are.
The list seems to be endless. While writing this, I took a peek at Zimbio and the headlining post was “Which ‘Arrow’ Character are You?” and I had to make sure I even knew what the show “Arrow” is about. Others I’ve seen help you decide what career path to choose and what kind of tattoo suits your character. Perhaps one of the ones that made me chuckle the most was “Which Beyonce’ Song is Your Personal Anthem?” I did not even know that one of her songs could be my personal anthem.
What does all of this mean? The blips of interest that periodically capture the imagination of many in social media can simply be the latest slice of entertainment. It was Flappy Birds last month. It is personality tests this month. Next month, it will be something else that some college kid dreamed up in his dorm room and will make a gazillion dollars off of us. However, I think there is something more at work with the flood of personality tests.
It shows a desire for belonging. People are designed for community. We have an innate desire to be part of a group. For example, take the cultural phenomenon that is the Harry Potter series of books. One of the basic story lines is that all of the kids who go to the wizarding school are placed in one of four houses; Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin. I will neither confirm nor deny that I’ve had that conversation with coworkers and that we may or may not have decided who in our area would fit in which Hogwarts house. Even when dealing with fiction, we want to know that we belong to a group. More so, a family.
It might show a dissatisfaction with life as it is. When you find yourself taking a 13-question online quiz to know what character from the Avengers you might be, then perhaps you are more than just a bit bored. It might (and I stated “might”) reveal that you are dissatisfied with the life as it is now. Perhaps the evaluation we really need is not about what creature we are from The Hobbit but what we should do to better enjoy the life we’ve been given.
It is definitely about revealing ourselves to others. People want to be known. Living in the shadows, anonymous and obscure is painful. Our desire for relationships has an inherent desire for others to know who we are. It manifests in the simple exercise of telling our own stories about life. We have a need for others to notice the details of who we are. It might be a cry for validation or it could be a cry for help. No matter what, it is a signal that we need to listen to one another better.
For those of us in the church, whether a member of a congregation or a leader of a congregation, I believe there is something to be learned by all of this. We hold a deep longing to be part of a group that will help us understand the details of our lives. It takes various shapes; a cry for accountability, the need for guidance, and the desire to be accepted. It certainly is possible that I have made much more of the personality tests than is really there but it is a good test for us to remember. The people around us (and in our social media feeds) are not just background and landscape for our lives. Our relationships are the substance of our lives and we should care deeply for them.