With young adulthood comes many pressing questions. What city should you live in? Which career should you choose? When should you get married?
How bad are you at life? And most importantly, how obsessed with pizza are you?
Fear not though, like anything else, the answers to all of these questions and more can be found by taking online quizzes like those found on BuzzFeed.
The obsession with online quizzes took off in January and February, says BuzzFeed’s senior publicist, Kristen McElhone, and has swept across various social media platforms to create a different facet of the online community.
“For BuzzFeed, the surge in producing [quizzes]started when we noticed older, early versions of our quizzes on the site getting a lot of attention,” McElhone said.
With more than 20 million views, the “Which City Should I Actually Live in?” quiz is one of the most popular posts of any kind on BuzzFeed, and the first online quiz that received a lot of attention, McElhone said.
“Once we saw the success with that, the rest of the editorial team took off and started creating more,” McElhone said. “It offers a new way to think about content in general, so the opportunities are endless.”
Despite its recent spike in popularity though, quizzes have long been a staple in pop culture.
“The [quiz]trend is nothing new; people have been taking personality quizzes in magazines for years,” McElhone said. “But it certainly has come back in a big way online.”
Although quizzes themselves aren’t new, adding social media to the equation gives them an aspect of community.
“There’s always been a testing mentality. Before online quizzes, there were sleepover games like MASH and Truth or Dare,” Paul Booth, assistant professor of media and cinema studies, said. “They allow us to show people what we’re fans of, what we identify with. We can tell people about ourselves and what particular fandoms we’re a part of.”
The popularity of online quizzes is largely related to participants sharing their results on various social media platforms, allowing quiz-takers to both learn about themselves and their quiz-taking friends.
“People take quizzes for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they hope to learn something about themselves, and some of them are just funny and entertaining,” McElhone said. “People continue to share them with their friends on social media because it’s a way to subtly declare something about yourself, like ‘look how hipster I am!’”
Posting quiz results and comparing with friends online is something freshman Anne Kennedy, who takes at least two quizzes per week, “always checks out.”
“People love to have something relatable to talk about,” Kennedy said. “If you take a quiz saying you belong in Italy and your best friend gets the same result, then clearly you two are even closer friends. It sounds stupid, but it makes people feel cool and closer together.”
Although the structure of the quizzes is often rooted in unrelated questions that “make no sense,” attempting to find the logic behind which combination of answers will yield the ideal result is the motivation behind taking them for Kennedy.
“Although they seem frivolous, the fact is that so many people are taking them,” Booth said. “We have to take it seriously and investigate this facet of our culture and how people find satisfaction online.”
Beyond creating a broader online community, quiz results further draw quiz-takers into pop culture by offering a direct comparison between them and celebrities.
“It’s an epidemic because people our age love pop culture,” Kennedy said. “It allows people to immerse themselves more because they can personally associate with that celebrity, place or stereotype.”
Booth argues that although pop culture and the popularity of online quizzes are related, they are not causal.
“People will use whatever technology they have to connect with other people,” Booth said. “It’s fun to compare yourself to other people in a non-threatening way. It’s not serious, not dangerous, it doesn’t matter if you get bacon or sausage.”