But seriously folks…
I love internet quizzes, I’m obsessed with them. I never let a quiz pass by me untaken, and consequently I know what Disney villain, character from New Girl, breed of dog, and flavor of ice cream I am. (Okay, I just made the ice cream one up, but it’d be cool, right? Actually… now that I’m thinking about it, I really need to know. What flavor of ice cream am I? Am I chocolate chip? Rocky road? I have no place in the universe!) Anyway, I was very excited when internet quizzes became a thing again.
It’s odd to me that the internet has been around long enough for trends to recycle because people still talk about it like it’s this mysterious new wonder. For those of us who more or less grew up with the internet the whole thing is a little less wondrous and a little bit more mundane. It’s been a part of my life for so long that I don’t really get the impulse to marvel at it. Still, the fact that it’s been around long enough for me to be nostalgic about things I used to do on it, well, that’s a bit weird.
Ah, yes, how I remember those halcyon days. When men were men and emoticons were emoticons. I was there when Xanga and Livejournal were kings, and chat-rooms weren’t quite as weird. And I was there for Myspace and Fan Fiction.net. And I was there for those wild, untamed days of early Facebook, when poking was still a thing and people actually used to write notes. Remember that? I do. And congratulations to me for being over ten years old. But I was there, and don’t you forget it.
It’s an odd side effect of the internet community, and one that people seldom acknowledge, but it seems to me that fads burn away so quickly that the internet’s generation has become a generation of nostalgics. You’ve seen the “like if you remember ___ ‘ memes. And do you remember? Can you like?
The internet loves to commemorate itself, with the Facebook ‘Look Back’ videos (None of which I’ve seen so I’m just pulling this part out of my ass) being a prime example. Ten years of status’ about your cat don’t really seem worthy of monuments, and I feel like most rational people already get that. Still, the speed with which things change seems to have left us under the impression that all change is significant. The problem of course being, how the hell do we tell what is significant without the benefit of hindsight?
I don’t know what the time period I’m living through will look like in the history books but I can be reasonably sure that it will look nothing like my scrapbook collage of things I wasted time on. Not to say that I don’t think social networking will be something future students will discuss as a part of our cultural heritage. I’m just saying that painting a me-shaped picture of history is the way nostalgia tends to turn history into petty navel gazing.
So really, and I feel like I’ve said this before, nostalgia is just a form of narcissism. You miss the you that was in those times, not the significance of the times themselves. (I could probably make some pompous statement here about how the hyper nostalgia of the internet is somehow related to the hyper narcissism of Millennials, but I don’t want to and you can’t make me.) The internet may have become a hotbed of nostalgia because it is a platform which encourages its users to explore and expound upon themselves. For the very same reason we think that Instagramming filtered shots of quirky old buildings is useful and interesting, we think that remembering Nokia phones and cassette tapes is useful and interesting, because it’s all part of the amorphous blob of sharing.
And this brings me back to quizzes. Quizzes fascinate me, because I fascinate me. There’s nothing I like more than answering questions about myself. The results may have no bearing whatsoever on my actual personality. Their authors are hardly following some sort of scientific process to determine whether I’m Winston or Schmitt. The description at the end of the quiz is more than usually incorrect but I love to take them all the same, and I share them every time.
Nostalgia and quizzes are really two sides of the same coin, the obsession with the self. That said, I’m not really dissing it. I think in moderation a little self-interest can be good. Self-discovery can be very good. What actually is the point of life if not to be curious, even just about ourselves?
Anyway, if I was going to go to a place to properly complain about people being too self-interested my blog, where I post almost exclusively about myself, would not be my first choice.
That me-shaped picture of history might not be the kind that ends up in the textbooks, and I’m certain that almost none of what I’m nostalgic about is significant, but it’s significant to me because it is me. It’s like that old saying or quote that I completely don’t remember; “the way you spend your life, is your life.” My identity, my sense of self, in essence my place in the universe, is wrapped up in my memories and the ways I waste my time.
So maybe it’s not deep enough to say that nostalgia and quizzes and all the millions of other stupid things I post on Facebook are rooted in self-obsession, because self-obsession is rooted in the deep and desperate need for a sense of place, a sense of identity and belonging. After all, who are we if we are not our experiences? Therefore our memories are how we recognize ourselves. And this same need to understand and recognize myself is played out again and again in every quiz. As I’m answering the questions I am exploring this self that I know so intimately and yet barely understand at all. After all I don’t know where I fit or if I ever really fit anywhere.
Ooor… maybe that’s way too deep. Like fell through the rabbit hole, found another rabbit hole inside that rabbit hole, fell through that one, then found a third rabbit hole and nosedived through that one, too deep.
Maybe when I start to write blog about some inane topic, like say ‘how fun internet quizzes are’, I should stick with that ‘internet quizzes are fun’ thing all the way through instead of getting all philosophical, and quite frankly losing the plot three or four times.
Either way someone needs to tell me what damn flavor of ice cream I am.