June 12, 2014

Celebrity Shot: Buzzfeed vortex of doom

The past few weeks have been terrible for me; a cloud of helplessness hangs above my life while I struggle to climb out of the hole I’ve dug for myself, but it’s finally time to face the truth: I have an addiction to Buzzfeed personality quizzes.

How did I get here? Well, first of all, I’m the typical small fish in a big pond at the University of Chicago, where my achievements are routinely eclipsed by the extraordinary successes of my exceptional peers. And Facebook ensures that I hear about all of those extraordinary successes with ease. And so, when struck by these moments of inadequacy, I turn to a simple stress reliever. And that’s where my addiction to personality quizzes begin—a little self-validation from those complimentary quiz results, which can be conveniently shared with my friends on Facebook, Twitter, or by email!

The set up right now is a win-win situation, where Buzzfeed sells our data and cookies and in exchange we get a positive reinforcement about our lives. So you might ask why I’m even talking about this; personality quizzes are harmless, provide lighthearted compliments, and are a fun conversation starter, but there’s something off about that warm fuzzy feeling when the Internet tells me I was a panda in my previous life. I am not so much described as reduced. The answers and the high they provide are short-lived; it's human nature to search for opportunities to view our lives in a positive light, but maybe that’s not what I’m actually looking for. What I want is to make sense of my life. But quizzes, with their picturesque comparisons, just don’t cut it for me.

Questions about which rom-com my life best resembles (The Notebook) and which Disney princess I am (Ariel), allow me to simplify my life through a series of guided questions. However, they don't provide the type of truly beneficial, deep insight I need to grow as a student and a person. But maybe a journal could serve as a sort of nicotine patch equivalent to my Buzzfeed quiz addiction. In a journal, we see everything: our strengths, weaknesses, problems, successes that can’t be summed up in a small textbox. Both methods provide an understanding of our lives, but why have I taken so many quizzes when I have failed so many times to keep a journal?

Most simply, because Buzzfeed quizzes are far easier to take than a journal entry is to write, both physically and mentally. But more importantly, a simple but ideal life is so much easier to swallow than a complicated and imperfect one.

Full reflections on our life suck because they’re holistic; they provide a constant reminder of our failures, and when we tend to look at our failures in terms of others’ successes, it’s simply difficult to acknowledge our shortcomings. But that’s what journals are meant to do: provide the necessary context for understanding our lives in the best way possible. Through such, we’re able to see every dip and mountain in our lives, and every struggle, every success, every positive and negative event gives us an idea that we have fallen and gotten up to improve. I’ve come to the conclusion that my true difficulties in keeping a journal was a result of a fear of augmenting my failures, but recognizing failure is part of getting a sense of life’s direction, which Buzzfeed doesn't really provide completely. Sure, Buzzfeed may provide us some form of idealized inspiration that we hope to embody, but a journal helps us confront the truth that every bit of potential to improve ourselves is completely possible simply through recognizing that we are fallible creatures. So be imperfect, and write your own flawed story, and maybe with Buzzfeed quizzes we can dream while keeping our feet on the ground with who we are.

Kevin Wei is the writer behind this Celebrity Shot. He is a first-year in the College.