The BuzzFeed Quiz: Flash in the Pan or Force of Change?

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Photo: BuzzFeed
Photo: BuzzFeed

By Nnekay FitzClarke

We've all been there. The desire to work all dried up, you click through your news blogs, fake news blogs, gossip blogs, and eventually reach your final resting space, an endless scroll through all the babies and engagement rings of Facebook, so many happy faces of lives you’re only now vaguely familiar with. And then you see it: “John McCarthy belongs to House of Lannister. Take the quiz to see which house you belong to!” You think to yourself, John was an a-hole in the 8th grade...that makes so much sense. You click the link. And so it begins: The BuzzFeed Quiz Obsession.

Just like the double rainbows and grumpy cats of yore, the BuzzFeed quiz has sparked the fascination of bored teens and adults alike. Yet, separate from other past internet obsessions, the BuzzFeed quiz speaks directly to the id by placing its participants' identities directly in the delicious grip of pop culture. A simple search on the BuzzFeed site will result in hundreds of hits around topics like television, relationships, literature, sports, friendship, decades, and beyond. You name it and you will find a corresponding quiz tailored to waste 10 minutes of your time.

Social media has created a culture in which we are allowed to shape who the outside world perceives us to be. We take selfies with great lighting, adding filters to minimize our less beloved features. We gently omit the bad hair days, crying arguments, and nights of boredom by featuring aspects of ourselves we think would be desirable to the outside observer. Not only do we wish to look the best in our social networks, but also to find like-minded people to form an extended tribe with. The BuzzFeed quiz scratches the itch to shine with its easily negotiable questions, while the quiz form legitimizes the process by adding an official air to something incredibly trivial. The quiz also satisfies the urge to find connection through conversation starters within an ever increasingly boring Facebook feed. It’s appealing to discover that you’re Gonzo from the Muppets, but it’s more comforting to discover that you’re not the only one.

Lately, there has been a dramatic shift in tone in the normally silly topics. While quizzes such as “How Many Dance Movies Have You Seen?” remain, now you’ll also find “How Privileged Are You?” thrown in with the rest, taking the fluffy pastime into deeper territory. Could BuzzFeed be transforming a flash-in-the-pan trend into possibly...wait for it...educational moments?


While many of these “conscience” quizzes can be problematic (“How Stereotypically White Are You?”), it’s obvious that there is motive to inspire more than your average “Are You a Dog?” type of time waster. It’s easy to believe that the inclusion of heavier subject matter such as feminism, patriarchy, and socio-economic status overly simplifies these topics, but this could be the best opportunity to expose someone who would not be receptive to the normal environment that these subjects would be discussed in.

With the rapid turnover rate of pop culture, the BuzzFeed quiz will soon be a part of our collective memory, referenced in occasional passing “Hey, remember…” While currently a massive procrastination tool, the people at BuzzFeed are clearly trying to do more with the medium. Time will tell if the quizzes will manage to capture the attention span of the masses for just a little longer, while subversively infusing modes of education and change.