Edit: I wrote and published this on Oct. 2nd but left it password protected while I thought about it. The irony of that and how in some ways it is almost, “Overcome by Events” is not lost on me.
Harmless game, right? In the moment, it probably is. In the grand scheme of things, is this kind of data mining really going to impact your life? Probably not on any noticeable level.
But it has and will impact you on an emotional level. This shouldn’t be news to you. It isn’t to me, but it hit me this morning in a painful and profound way.
Here’s what it has done that I find more insidious. It has taken the world of psychology and biology and
- distorted the definitions and understanding of the terms used therein and
- injured or exacerbated our fears about self-worth and wellness such that we constantly seek validation.
Let me preface the rest of this with the admission that I too have played these FB games, but not because I thought it would reveal me as a narcissist/empath/sociopath/ADHD/neurodivergent or even none of those things. I played these games to see what FB game logic looked like. On more than one occasion I played the same game multiple times and got wildly different answers. Not surprising given it is data mining and the results of these “tests” are largely random. Some are a little more sophisticated and give marginally fact-based results.
When I saw this particular test, I noticed that its premise has absolutely nothing to do with anything. You aren’t selecting an image that has any meaning (usually one sees landscapes, animals, or flowers). The images are in no way symbolically associated with the month and months in no way determine personality. (If you believe in Astrology, I’m not here to fight you. I’m a scientist by training. I need empirical data.)
So…I saw the test and was curious. When FB got hung up and didn’t give me an answer, I got bored. Then, I started thinking about this test and the many I have seen like it. A switch flipped in my brain; perhaps because I am constantly processing my last thirty-seven years.
Let’s talk about 1 above, first.
Narcissist is a medical term. Yes, it has a common meaning, but when used in the context of these tests, that isn’t where the miners are aiming. They are aiming for the medical (DSM-5) definition of narcissist (Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD). This is important because when we throw this word around and diagnose each other or even ourselves with any medical condition, we are at risk of [getting it all wrong 😊].
I get it. Truly I do. I get the need to label someone who has hurt us and displayed all those traits of NPD or borderline personality or whatever you think you are dealing with. I get the need to label ourselves to understand ourselves better. I don’t say ignore that potential diagnosis. I say, acknowledge and deal with the behavior as you must for survival. You may well be spot on.
My concern is with the petty or indiscriminate use of medical terms in social media. The more we use these terms without valid diagnoses or credentials, the more these terms are weakened in the collective mind. The more prevalent these terms become on social media, the more we see them as ways of diminishing each other. “You are [insert label here] so you are not worth my effort to connect/communicate with].” Who can forget the rallying cry, “F*** your feelings!”
Again, I’m not fussing at those of us who are coping with hurtful people in our lives. As I said, acknowledge and deal with or escape that behavior. Don’t let it hurt you.
So where do these tests fit in and why was it so striking for me?
We arrive at 2. Social media, like Facebook and Tiktok, seeks to validate us thereby winning our constant participation. These tests hurt us in their blasé approach to medical diagnoses. In giving us pat answers about complex questions, they speak to our fear and our innate need for validation.
“Are you a NARCISSIST?”
Your brain screams: NO! Of course not. I’m a good and empathetic person. Here! I’ll prove it by clicking on this image.”
“See! It says I’m empathetic and loving and a whole bunch of other stuff I need to believe about myself because I’m not getting the validation I need from (elsewhere).”
Then there’s this one.
“Are you an EMPATH?” it screams.
Well, you think you are, but now you’re not so sure. You must prove that you are. So, you click that button under the pretty image of the ocean instead of the one of the mountain, because oceans mean empathy, right?
“Why yes! Yes, you ARE an empath.”
Except, and this is one I’ve tested, had you clicked on the mountain, the river, the dark, scary cave, the long, blacktop road to nowhere, the bouncing ball on the playground…any of the pictures provided, the test would have told you, “Why yes! Yes, you ARE an empath!”
Why? Because the test is not a test for empathy but of your willingness to part with data for your fix. If you are given anything but the answer you crave, you won’t continue to let them mine your data.
I don’t care one whit about your data being mined. That’s not the purpose of this post.
I care that you, like I, are seeking validation in a post on FB. I care that in so doing, you get that momentary high that dissipates as quickly as you got it and has you seeking more within minutes: validation you will also reach for by posting pretty pictures or stupid memes. (guilty) Validation you will seek from junk people in your life instead of finding it in your own heart. I care that this medium, more than any I believe humans have created thus far, because of its immediacy and ease, has stoked this fire of validation addiction* beyond recovery.
That I am putting this on my Facebook page is, indeed, some hypocrisy. That it belongs here, remains true.
That this struck me so hard this morning that I had to write about it immediately and then examine my own methods of seeking validation (not just social media) is a bit of a shock to my system.
I am hoping that no one reading this feels this to be an attack. I have played these games and required this validation a dozen times. And before you come back with “it’s just a harmless game,” it has always been that to me, as well.
It was until this morning, when years of being accused of one flaw or another came to a boil in one silly, harmless game.
I, you, none of us needs validation from social media.
Or anyone else.
*I am leery of posting links to any of the DSM-5 terms as I do not wish to add to the problems surrounding diagnosis or self-diagnosis. I strongly urge anyone who feels they or a loved one needs help in any area mentioned above seek counsel with a licensed professional. Note: many, if not most, church counselors are not licensed and have no psychology or medical background.