I Know You Are But What Am I

“I took one of those tests you guys who like to work with other people are so crazy about,” I said to my wife yesterday. I was actually trying to think of the term Myers-Briggs, although I didn’t take a Myers-Briggs test. Not even a test; a questionnaire. So, no.

I think I may have actually done the Myers-Briggs thing years ago. I didn’t have much use for it then and I don’t now. Actually, I pretty much scoff at the whole notion of psychometrics and personality types.

I scoff from ignorance, of course. I have vague familiarity with personality assessments and pathologies, but I really haven’t ever been interested. I’m sure there’s good science or at least a track record behind some of this, along with some questionable stuff. Again, I haven’t the slightest interest, or at least most of the time.

The test I took, though (or allowed to test me, I guess), was the meat of an article I finally got around to reading yesterday. It’s long and a little wonky, but I can summarize and save you the click: It tells the story of how a couple of graduate students in the UK, back in the infancy of social media, sent their friends and colleagues a Facebook test. They were just curious about this new medium and how it might or might not provide some insight into the personalities of Facebook users based on their likes.

As will happen, their little test went viral and they suddenly had over a million people willingly providing a huge trove of data. This is also not surprising; every day, I see a dozen or so Facebook quizzes, some of which may just be for fun but most of which, I suspect, are data mining. There was a time when I’d scream about this, over and over again, years ago. Nobody really likes that guy, though. And people are going to be people.

Anyway, the story purports to show how this innocent experiment led to abuse and possibly the success of Brexit and Donald Trump. I didn’t buy that, or at least I didn’t see it as startling. This is our world, and the days of mass advertising aimed at the lowest common denominator are gone forever. We’re all targets now, and the more times we hit “Like” the bigger that bull’s eye gets. People are going to take advantage of data; they always will, they always have. It’s just that there’s so much more now.

I want to read it again, because there’s something there I want to explore more and think about, although I’m not exactly sure what. The article provided a link to the original doctoral students’ test, which asked for minimal permissions and didn’t bother me in the least, so it took a look at my Facebook activity and tried its best to figure me out.

The only thing it looked at, actually, was my Page likes (i.e., which specific Facebook pages I liked), and I have 45 of those. That’s nowhere near enough, but it tried and didn’t miss too broadly. It pegged me as having fairly androgynous taste but probably male. It suggested that I’d probably studied journalism (yes, no, sort of) and probably was very interested in the subject. It had me as artistic and creative and politically liberal and heterosexual and reasonably intelligent, all of this coming from, as far as I could tell, about six Facebook page likes.

It also suggested that I was ambivalent or uninterested in organized religion, probably atheist or agnostic or possibly Muslim or a Jedi. Seriously.

Here’s the link to the original test, if you’re so inclined. It might be eye-opening or, if you’re as reluctant as I am to leave much of a social media footprint as far as this sort of thing, it might be just fun but not particularly useful. At least it’s much safer than figuring out which Disney character or color you are.

Also? I’m probably not a lesbian, according to this. Good to know.

There ya go.

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