Media & Entertainment

Are Online Quizzes Evil? Answer These Simple Questions And You’ll Find Out

online quizzes

‘What type of bread are you?’; ‘What city should you live in based on your personality?’; ‘What percent Gordon Ramsay are you?’; ‘We Know If You’re A Gen Z’er Or A Millennial Based On Your Donut Preferences’ – if you are an average Internet surfer, you might have seen some of these in the wild. There are billions of online quizzes roaming freely on the Internet. Some are plain time-killers, while others have some psychological undertones. In this article, we’ll analyze the quiz phenomenon, look into the appeal of online quizzes and the reasons people still take them.   

The BuzzFeed Context

If we are to discuss the societal effect of online quizzes, there is no better place to start from than BuzzFeed. Our saga begins in the year of 2006 when the Internet was the land of possibilities and BuzzFeed was just a site focused on tracking viral content. Later in its existence, the company became known for its quizzes, listicles and pop-cultural pieces. From 2011, BuzzFeed reached its full potential and is recognized as a global media and technology company.

It was BuzzFeed that popularized these species of ‘easy content’ that don’t speak of anything besides the words they contain. And since their primary goal was to analyse and predict the ability of content to go viral, there is no wonder that they grew as a media company. So, dear readers, always do your research before going viral.

Moreover, the quiz phenomenon grew as a result of our unconscious need to define and identify our deeper selves. As scientist Quinn put it in her research on Buzzfeed: “Not only have BuzzFeed quizzes taken over the internet, but they have taken over the discourse surrounding the self-identification of many college age students”. Many will share their results on social media as a way to show their peers some dubious association that deciphers their personality.

Quinn also added that “The results, content, and commentary that Buzzfeed users choose to share on social media makes a statement not only about their interests (based on their quiz selection), but also about their perceived identity (based on what quiz results they share) and their self-view (based on the commentary they choose to share or not share)”.

Why are quizzes so popular? 

This question is natural when you see the sheer amount of quizzes at your disposal. What would make hundreds of people want to know how a font quiz will reveal their level of introversion? We can’t expect that everyone completing a quiz is soul-searching.

Simple escapism or tools for self-identification, quizzes are, either way, here to stay.

I did my own little investigation into the matter. And although it’s not replicable and the sample might not suggest generalizable results, most people do quizzes out of boredom, or curiosity. Also, not everyone will share their results on social media.

There isn’t much consensus on the issue of quiz popularity, as they mean different things for different people, and one’s motivations for taking a quiz are not the same as another’s. Simple escapism or tools for self-identification, quizzes are, either way, here to stay.

Hidden agenda? 

But what about the information one freely gives out as a part of a quiz? In my investigations, I stumbled upon a quiz that guaranteed to guess the state you live in based on the supermarket chains you have visited. Nothing weird here. Or so I thought. The comments at the bottom of the quiz praised it for its accuracy.

It appears that quizzes have the potential for making accurate predictions from data we input and perhaps other cues we are unaware of. BuzzFeed’s privacy statement reads: “We and our partners store and/or access information on your device and process personal data using cookies, tracking pixels and similar technologies to recognise your device so we can understand your browsing habits and interests. That means we can show you personalised content and personalised ads which are more likely to be interesting to you. It also helps us to use ad and content measurement, and audience insights to understand what’s popular and what’s not so we can: develop and improve our products and services, report to our advertisers about how their ads performed, and carry out important administrative activities like combatting ‘click fraud’”.

Just imagine a quiz website being asked to create a quiz that shines a positive light on a certain product. What morning cereal are you? might do a better job than a skip cereal ad on YouTube.

If you are a Communication Science enthusiast or a recent viewer of the Social Dilemma on Netflix, you might know not to accept cookies from Internet strangers. And, to be fair, BuzzFeed offers you the option not to accept their cookies.

It shouldn’t surprise us that a company worth US$167 million in 2015 wants to make more money. And since their products are free, their business model relies on the existence of advertisers that pay for our attention. Banner, or pop-ads, we’ve seen them before. Native advertising is where I’d draw the line.
Just imagine a quiz website being asked to create a quiz that shines a positive light on a certain product. What morning cereal are you? might do a better job than a skip cereal ad on YouTube.

You are a QUIZ-TAKER! Congratulations!

On your way out, think about the information that you are asked for in a quiz. It might not be as innocent as your favourite colour or ideal first date. Still, if you need to escape the boredom of online classes, don’t sweat it. Quizzes are not that effective persuasion tools that you will change your identity once you find out you are 67% Gordon Ramsay.

Cover: Trinity Treft 

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Andrada Pop
This is Andrada Pop. Her passions include photography, reading and painting. She is an advocate for a more sustainable future. Her aim here at Medium is to write stories that matter and resonate with others.

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