Why are BuzzFeed quizzes so popular? Experts explain the phenomenon

buzzfeed quiz
“What’s the deal with these quizzes?” indeed.
Credit: BuzzFeed

What Type of Emoji Are You? Which ’90s Alt-Rock Grrrl Are You? What Career Should You Actually Have? Which Al Roker Are You? Which ’90s Nickelodeon Show Are You? Are You Drake?

These are just a handful of the quizzes offered on BuzzFeed, and they have probably flooded your Facebook feed over the past few weeks.

It’s not clear why BuzzFeed quizzes have suddenly become the hottest thing on the web, but Keith Wilcox, a professor at Columbia Business School, said they are part of a larger tendency to “soft boast” on Facebook.

“I think it’s tapping into a general trend on social media where Facebook has really become a platform for people to post positive things about themselves,” he told us. “A BuzzFeed quiz is like a soft boast. It’s a way for you to communicate how good you or your interests are without going overboard.”

Wilcox added that as social media etiquette evolves, the “soft boast” has become the norm. “Someone once described a ‘soft boast’ as you posting a picture of yourself in another country instead of outright bragging about it,” he explained. “BuzzFeed quizzes are a way to occupy ourselves. We need to prove to others that we’re better than them, and they can be subtly used to do that.”

Preston Ni, professor of communication studies at Foothill College and a Fortune 500 trainer and personal coach, said posting the results of BuzzFeed quizzes is a good way to get attention. “It’s part of the social media self-advertisement trend,” he said. “It helps people who are less expressive and more introverted to identify themselves and let other people know who they are. It’s a good way to start a conversation topic and it’s better than ‘what I ate today’ or ‘how my cat looks today.’” Ni said by posting quiz results on Facebook, users open the floor to have their friends compliment them.

“I have a close friend who used to joke, ‘That’s enough of me talking about myself — let’s hear you talk about me,’” said Ni. “The BuzzFeed quizzes are sometimes like people saying, ‘This is what I have about myself; let’s see how you talk about me.’ It can be very narcissistic in that regard.” But Ni said most of the time, the quizzes are harmless. “It’s fun, it’s cool and it’s a social trend,” he said. “If everybody is a ‘Sopranos’ fan and you take a quiz on which character you are, it’s fun to compare and talk about it.”

Psychologist Dr. Michael Friedman said social media trends do not necessarily indicate that people today are more narcissistic than ever. “I don’t think it’s a grand indictment on a generation,” he said. “There have always been kind of annoying things that people do to deal with being bored or to connect with people. This is just another one.”

Friedman said though some users may find the deluge of BuzzFeed quiz results a pain, the posts can create an open dialogue. “Even if the majority of people might be dismissive, there might be one or two people that connect and that becomes your network,” he said. “On the Internet, there are billions of people out there and you only need a few to feel a connection. Certain people do things to try and find them.”

Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark


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