Which Downton Abby character are you? Buzzfeed wanted to know. Ok, fine. I’ll play.
I started clicking on stuff. Pick a color…sure. But like…for what? For a new dress, or for new paint in the living room? For nail polish, or liturgical paraments for the sanctuary? Ooh, and if yes to either the nail polish or the liturgical stuff, WHAT SEASON IS IT?
Then, pick a movie. Like, I don’t know what kind of mood I’m supposed to be in, or who’s watching with me? Husband, or bff from high school? Clearly, different sorts of viewing happening in those scenarios. But anyway, one of the choices is To Kill A Mockingbird, so others need not apply.
Pick an adult beverage…ok, people, you’ve got to tell me what the weather’s like and what sort of day I’ve had. Sometimes it’s a fine line between beer and bourbon, merlot or mojito. Oh, and also, what’s to eat with it??
On it went. This was getting stressful, but I powered through as best I could. Then came the result:
You are Carson.
I’m sorry, what? Oh, HELL no. I am Sybil, b!+©#€ $. I’m edgy, I’m a leader, I’m a little offbeat. Hey, I even had preeclampsia! Sure, I may have a healthy dose of Matthew Crawley thrown in—what with his frequent visionary sermonizing about how the world is changing and we have to evolve, etc etc. But still… (wait…why am I all the people who die?)
Anyway, so I take the dang thing again, (sure) going with some of my almost-answers. This time, I got the Dowager Countess.
At which point I need to ask myself what y’all have HOPEFULLY been asking your-all-selves: why do I care??? Why do I care what fictional character an online quiz tells me I am??
I dunno, but I did for a second. And maybe so do you. And apparently, so do a whole lot of other people, because these quizzes are huge. And they’re everywhere.
Which Hogwarts house do you really belong in? Which mythical creature are you? What Divergent faction do you belong in? What District are you from? Are you a Carrie, a Charlotte, a Miranda or a Samantha??
Hurry, stop whatever ‘work’ you are supposed to be doing, or whatever ‘relationship’ you’re trying to engage in face to face, and take this quiz already. The world can’t wait another second to find out what super hero you are.
I know, I know, it’s just for fun. In fact, I loved the ‘which city should you live in’ quiz. Not only did it start fun conversations amongst friends about ‘where we’ll move someday when…’ It also included the question “choose a Beyonce.” I mean…how can you not love a quiz with plural Beyonces?
That particular quiz got over 20 million hits and shares on social media. Let me say that again… 20 MILLION.
Can you imagine if 20 million people took a notion to try and end world hunger? I’m not much of a statistician, but I know 20 million is a larger group of people than pretty much any other large group of people.
The recreational quiz is certainly nothing new. Magazines have been doing it forever. “Are you with the guy you should marry?” “Is your woman satisfied?” “Are you wearing the right jeans/bathing suit/toupee for your figure??” These things have always been passed around as harmless, poolside time killers.
But with social media, the nature of the standard quiz fare has changed. What used to be the topic of chat at a junior high slumber party has evolved into this viral sensation, designed to be shared with hundreds of your closest friends and acquaintances. And then 20 million of THEIR closest friends and acquaintances.
The Buzzfeed editor who stumbled upon this booming trend shared some of her thoughts in an interview. She says “People who self-identify as dog people or as “Friends” fans get really excited about ‘What Kind of Dog are You,’ or ‘Which Friends Character are You?’ I think everybody plays that game, in their heads or with their friends already. So they want to see what an objective source is going to tell them.”
In other words, when we take these quizzes by the hundreds of thousands (or 20’s of millions) we are asking to be seen. We are asking for strangers (or a computer) to shape and define us, then we share the results so that our friends can confirm or deny the results. “Oh, heck no,” a good friend might say. “You are DEFINITELY not a Charlotte, you are a Carrie.” Or “Bro, yes, you are SO DON DRAPER.”
Sure, the quizzes themselves are just for fun. But their viral popularity may be pointing to a symptom of spiritual sickness… a culture in which people don’t know who they are. And so we identify ourselves through the lens of fictional characters. Then we share the results and ask the witness of a few hundred/thousand others to confirm or deny—yes, I see you there.
Church—this is what people are hungry for: Identity. Recognition. A sense of self.
Congregations are always looking for a niche… A need in the community that nobody else seems to be meeting. A successful move to fulfill that need will be the magic bullet for church growth, we are just sure of it. Maybe our neighbors need support for grandparents raising grandchildren; a youth mentoring program; clothing and computer access for those seeking work; an ESL class, women’s self-defense, healthy cooking… We spend hours in discernment and demographics studies and wander the streets asking ourselves… who are these people? What do they need?
Could it be this simple: that ‘these people’ are us; and what they need is to be reminded who they are?
So maybe we just ask them a few questions: pick a color. Now choose your favorite breakfast food. What kind of socks are you wearing? Enter the second letter of your first name. Your favorite 80’s hair band?
Ok, there you are. We can see it perfectly now: You are a child of God. You are whole and complete, just as you are. You are imperfect, fragile, and a bit of a pain in the ass. But you are beloved. You are so deeply and desperately loved, and there is work to do. Come join us?