Everyone knows that the What Noun = You? quizzes that have blossomed out of BuzzFeed are silly. What after all does your Beyonce preference have to do with the City that = You? (If you don’t like Beyonce, are you cursed to wander the earth?) The quizzes are just social media love taps: There’s no point in being certified as Charles Bukowski, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or “not totally an ’80s kid, but you did get to experience some very cool ’80s kids things” without showing your results to Internet friends, getting them to play along, and having adorable reactions to one another’s results.
Not always, though. BuzzFeed recently invited users to check off advantages and disadvantages from a list to find out how “privileged” they were. The quiz told me I was “not privileged at all” — which shocked me, because I’m white, male, and have a roof over my head, which I imagine puts me at the apex of privilege in global terms, despite the “intersectional, complicated identity” BuzzFeed perceived as a mitigating circumstance. If an impoverished, unemployed immigrant becomes less complicated, does his social standing rise? And where I had quickly dismissed those other quizzes, I thought about this one: About why the result had surprised me, why the idea of privilege should be fungible when human needs are not, the times in my life when my privilege had dropped, risen, or bailed me out, whether privilege obligated me toward people who didn’t have it, and so on. So while the result is absurd, for me at least the testing experience was not. I don’t think this is a sign that Internet quizzes are improving. I think it’s a reminder that any little, silly thing can be an opportunity for self-examination if you let it. And this is a result worth sharing with your friends.