I admit it, much of my time on the internet that could be better spent learning amazing things is spent taking endless quizzes. They are as addictive as they are unnecessary. It seems reasonable to assume that most of us know that selecting a favorite color, animal and smell will not ultimately lead to a sound, logical judgement about whether or not we are a good lover, but we take them anyway. Or at least, I do.
So why do they keep us entertained? Is it the almost certain flattery? “You are the most unique member of your circle of friends and therefore a rare find!” Is it the chance that they actually nail something about us? “You are a brunette in your mid-30’s!” Some combination of both, maybe?
My assumption is that we like them because they lavish attention on us for the kinds of things that have not been noteworthy to people since our early childhood. Do you like cats or dogs better? Which sandwich looks tastiest? Nothing I choose can be wrong. The computer friend is delighted and non-judgmental about every choice. Yes, I want to watch Pillow Talk with Doris Day and Rock Hudson way the fuck more than Kill Bill and I don’t have to defend that. My quiz friend is just happily getting to know me. Then, after all of my embarrassing answers about favorite songs and the age at which I lost my virginity, I am bestowed with a few kind comments.
There is something great and profoundly kind about being listened to without judgement. It sort of makes me want to design these quizzes and hand them out to my friends and talk about their answers, no matter how mundane. Your favorite color is purple? Wow! Violet or mulberry or what? And do you like to wear it? Decorate your home in it? How does it make you feel when you look at it?
Sometimes knowing those tiny little details can lead to other moments of understanding. What may seem small and petty can be really illuminating in other contexts. You might start to get at their stories. Do I like white wine or red? If I just say red, you know a little thing. However, if I told you that I got sick drinking white, you might start to ask about it and I might tell you the story. And there is one. But I would rather share it because you wanted to know something little. Because you cared about a detail.