'Which (blank) are you?' Online quizzes go viral thanks to sites like Buzzfeed
Matt Stites, Associated Press
NEW YORK — For a compulsive online quiz-taker like Chrissy Noh, the temptation was too great to resist: "Which sandwich are you?"
After answering a series of unscientific, seemingly unrelated questions, which included selecting her favorite doughnut from a lineup of frosted pastries, she had her answer (grilled cheese, for the record). And she's not the only one who's comparing herself to sandwiches lately. Go on, admit it: Chances are, you've been doing it, too.
A recent explosion of silly online personality quizzes, most of them created by the young social media mavens at Buzzfeed.com, has everybody talking about which state they really ought to be living in and which Harry Potter character they really are. Buzzfeed says the quizzes are smashing traffic records and generating more Facebook comment threads than any viral posts in the site's history.
Experts say the phenomenon isn't surprising given the age-old fascination with that central question — "Who AM I?" — and a desire to compare ourselves with others in a social media-obsessed society.
On a recent snowy day, the 37-year-old Noh, who lives in New York City, admitted that she and several friends spent the afternoon taking quizzes and texting each other screen shots of the results. "It turned into an all-day group text message fest, where it was just picture after picture of, oh, what rapper are you?" she says, laughing. "What career should you actually have? Which sandwich are you? Which member of One Direction should you marry?"
Personality quizzes have been around for decades, gracing the covers of women's and teen magazines with questions designed to lure us in. Nor are they new to the Internet, where online quizzes can be found aplenty on sites like Zimbio.com, among others. But the recent wave of quiz popularity can be traced directly to Buzzfeed's New York City headquarters, where a team of about 100 content creators have been producing one to five quizzes every single day for the past two months.
The most popular quiz — "Which State Do You Actually Belong In?" — has generated about 41 million page views.
"For our most viral quizzes, the results have to be meaningful in some way," says Summer Burton, BuzzFeed's managing editorial director. "It's not that they are scientific. It's just that what they say means something to people as far as their own identity."
A QUIZ FOR EVERYONE
A scroll through the "QUIZZES" page on Buzzfeed.com reveals a bewildering assortment, many infused with pop culture references. Which celebrity cat are you? Which pop diva? Which "Girls" character? What career should you actually have? Which generation do you actually belong in? What kind of dog would you be?
The intense push to pump out as many quizzes as possible started a couple of months ago after Buzzfeed editors realized that a quiz called "Which 'Grease' Pink Lady are you?" ranked among the most-trafficked posts of 2013. Then, in mid-January, a quiz called "Which city should you actually live in?" went viral, and the whole venture just took off like wildfire, Burton says.
The ability to create a quiz was encoded into Buzzfeed's in-house content management system a little more than a year ago. Essentially any staff member has the autonomy to create one. There are no specific rules regarding quiz-making, but each one follows the same age-old general format: You start with the results and work backward based on general personality traits that go with each answer.
"If you take a 'Parks and Rec' quiz and you get Leslie Knope, then you're very enthusiastic," Burton says. "It's almost like you pick three or four adjectives, and then those kind of go into figuring out what the answers for each question are going to be. And assigning them to a result."
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