Q: Can I really find out who my soulmate is based on my Starbucks order?
A: So either Starbucks has decided reading tea leaves is the new PSL or you are referring to an online quiz making the rounds.
Before we delve into answering your question, let’s talk a little about the evolution of quizzes. Seeing a quiz about your love life, intelligence, or just the ridiculous on social media or sites like BuzzFeed are commonplace, but really they all got their starts from the pioneers of the quiz, women’s magazines.
Ladies Home Journal in the 1950s rolled out the earliest versions of these types of quizzes and just as you would suspect, even in their infancy were laced with heavy amounts of judgement and expectations. Are you marriage material? Are you a good parent? Tally your score and find out the answers unique to you (bit.ly/2VZ98qH).
These quizzes evolved as the women’s movement grew and changed over the last half a century, but found a place in most major women’s interest publications. The tone of how women should act, live their best life, take care of themselves, and how they stacked up amongst their peers was always a common theme (bit.ly/2CnEfn8). As backlash in advertising and fashion magazine portrayals of beauty are continually being challenged, attitudes on these quizzes have shifted from a gospel of self-comparison to merely entertainment.
A quick look at the Cosmopolitan’s recent quiz offerings will show you how the topics have evolved (bit.ly/2DcPf8d). My favorite being “How old is your boyfriend, really? Is your grown-ass boyfriend actually just three toddlers stacked on top of each other (bit.ly/2Fwd9hC)?”
Fast forward from page to screen and there is no doubt that BuzzFeed is the leader in online quizzes. BuzzFeed found its footing on the back of making lists that gained a quick following but noticed that the few quizzes they had put out had a long life. Though not immediate hits, these posts seem to grow in popularity over time and they decided to invest time and effort in making more of them. With the quiz “What city should you actually live in?” (bzfd.it/2Cq09Ga) being the tipping point and thus BuzzFeed quizzes are now the standard by which all are measured.
The architects of these quizzes say the most popular ones claim to reveal something unknown about a person but admit that there isn’t a scientific method in creating the material – just a formula for fun (bit.ly/2RPKkSY).
BuzzFeed has figured out how to take this formula and make it profitable for themselves as well as other organizations (read.bi/2AOtASa). Take your question for example: Of course I’ve been waiting my whole life to find out my soulmate’s name is Blaine, but didn’t Starbucks just get another chance to try and make Refreshers happen? I mean we all just want a Frappuccino. Deal with it.
A quick review of the Quiz page (bzfd.it/2aJ8avc) and you will see quizzes that will reveal your hidden secrets based on your shopping habits at a particular retailer or your order at your favorite restaurant. Yes, I know ordering the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity from IHOP makes me a genius, but I am glad that you know it too.
So we’re hopefully in agreement that these quizzes should be taken as entertainment and know that at times the goal will be to market something to you simultaneously. Hidden (or explicit) marketing may not be the only thing to be mindful of when clicking. Many quizzes shared and taken on social media sites like Facebook are fronts for undesirables to collect and share your personal information. Also, the methods used to entice you into clicking preys on the very need for validation that magazines and societal pressures instilled in us decades ago (bit.ly/2TRFVfz).
To answer your original question, there can be some hidden truth amongst the fluff. Blaine and I are currently on our way to London (where I am truly meant to live), working through the Sunday Times crossword (since we’re both geniuses), while snacking on our Bloomin’ Onion (the only app for true romantics).