Survey says...

MySpace surveys say only one thing about their respondents: That they're throwing away an opportunity.

Don't get me wrong, I recognize the attraction to these things.  They are bubblegum.  They let you run in place in ways less demanding than the gym when you're too tired or apathetic to do anything but type.  Best of all, they're asking you questions you already know most of the answers to.  After all, odds are you know yourself better than almost anyone on your friend list.  And that will still be case afterward since surveys of this variety tell their readers almost nothing of substance about the respondent.

I went through a phase some time ago wherein I took to the survey trend as well.  This was a couple years before MySpace got off the ground, so I tended to find questionnaires elsewhere, but it was essentially the same material.  This isn't rocket science, after all.  These aren't controlled instruments endorsed by the APA.  No, by and large, they're superficial questionnaires generated by superficial teenagers.  The medium may have changed, but this is nothing more sophisticated than the age-old tradition of passing notes in class.  However, instead of being time-wasters, they can (and should) be employed to explore more deeply than the limited scope they present on a first reading.

For example, one use I found in these instruments was in collecting a large set of qualitative data about myself, and from those, I could find meaningful patterns.  I realize most people tend to test "S" on the Myers-Briggs rather than as iNtuitives, but if you are active on MySpace (much less so for the Facebookies), odds are you're a "big picture" thinker; you're going to see patterns in seemingly random lists.

In my case, I found that when I treated one of these lists as a self-inventory of, say, my favorites, I found a deeper understanding of who I was through an awareness of the commonalities of those favorites.  For example, if you list your favorite movies, an implicit finding is what you left off.  You tacitly make a (non)list of movies that don't rate very highly with you by their very exclusion.  More specifically, you might arrive at a virtual map of your sense of humor via the comedies you love and those you hate.  For example, in my case, I know that, whatever the hype, I should go into Ben Stiller movies guardedly if at all, and wait for the dvd in any case.  Existential discoveries aside, this knowledge alone has saved me a lot of money.

And that's just quick list-type surveys.  Reading surveys as though there is greater scope of inquiry built in turns this otherwise inane past-time into an opportunity for creativity or perhaps some therapy.  Questions with all the depth of "Extra" interviews with Jessica Alba have the potential to serve as introspective exercises if you make the effort to read them as prompts and invest in them accordingly.  I have heard from a number of folks that the reason they don't blog is because they don't have anything to say, and yet they can't help but snack on surveys like they're going out of style.  Well, there's your opportunity.  Surveys full of yes/no questions don't elicit much more than a one-word response in affirmative or negative if you take them at face value, in which case, what's the point in answering them?  I always scan through the list and assume there's a "Why?" at the end.  That's what matters the most anyway.

Copyright 2009 Alexplorer.
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