Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pop Quiz

If you have a Facebook account, (or even if you don't), you may have noticed that American pop culture seems to have an obsession with quizzes. I have taken quizzes on Facebook for everything from "What Color Is Your Aura?" and "What Kind of Kisser Are You?" to "What State Should You Really Live In?" and "What Kind of Pipe Organ Builder Are You?" (Seriously, I am not making that up.) It kind of got me thinking about what it is about "finding ourselves" that intrigues us so much.

In the 1960's and 1970's, the euphemism, "finding myself" was just a sugar coated way to say that whatever it was that you were doing at the time was not to your satisfaction. And, rather than stay and face the consequences of the choices that you had made, you were going to bail out and try to start over. In some artistic circles, this was seen in a more positive light. Sort of a way to break free of the expectations put on you by others in order to get to your "artistic essence". Thus, creating a freedom from the responsibilities that had been tying you down and holding you back from artistic excellence.

Nowadays, I don't hear that phrase nearly as often, but I do see these quizzes and I think they are connected. There are quizzes on social networking sites, magazines, television shows and even the backs of placemats at restaurants. And we take them. Something inside of us really does want to know what kind of flower we would be (if we were a flower). Why? Does it give us insight that we do not already possess? Probably not. If you get a result that doesn't suit your mental picture of yourself, you probably don't share it with anyone else. And on Facebook, in fact, some people even retake the quiz to get a better result! (Yep. Guilty.)

What are we looking for that drives this obsession to know more about ourselves? Is it a good thing? Is it a misguided search for the image of God in our beings? Or are we just innocently passing time gazing at our navels and wishing the rest of the world would just leave us alone?

It is a dangerous thing to turn in on oneself and try too hard to "find yourself". You become insular and isolated, depriving the rest of the world of the unique gifts that God gave to you to share. Not only that, but you are deprived of the gifts that others have to share with you. I am not saying that knowing your strengths and weaknesses is not a good thing, but there can come a point when the quest for that knowledge becomes obsessive and destructive. I think that Americans (on the whole) have almost reached that point.

Now that I have slammed the "Quiz Culture", these quizzes can be a tool that can be used to spark discussion and self-reflection, and they are fun. While the latest Facebook quiz isn't likely going to change your life, it might just make you stop and think about how you come across to others. But, I have had to stop myself recently and ask, "Why do I want to know this? To confirm my suspicions of who I am? Or just because it'll be fun to see what comes out?" and then, "Why the heck am I on Facebook so much!!?"

Moderation in all things.

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