Thursday, May 14, 2009

mind the gap

Do you ever take those quizzes on facebook and in between the idiocy, you hit on something that is dead on? I’ve only taken a few, and they were total bullshit, but recently quite a few of my friends seem to have found quizzes that are eerily accurate in their descriptions of the participant. Pam said that the result of her What Your Birth Date Reveals About You quiz was “so true”, and Suton said that the very same quiz had her “spot on”. When Kendra’s result from the What kind of fighter are you? quiz was “Brawler”, she said “I already knew that about myself!” (I love you Kendra, don’t hurt me); and although Rita accused the Which book character are you? quiz of not even knowing her (how can you hate Holden?), she found the What element are you? Quiz “freakishly accurate”

I find it a little unnerving when the results of those things ring true, I want to resist the notion that I can be so easily defined based on the representative question of whether or not my perfect weekend involves excessive drinking (duh). important aside: for research purposes, I took the “what movie is your life” quiz. Footloose. So am I Kevin Bacon or Lori Singer or Sara Jessica Parker?

But there are those times and tools when I feel pegged, like I’m really not the inimitable radical that I fancy myself to be. I think it’s about knowing yourself, though. If you can’t honestly answer questions on a tool like the Myers Briggs, you’re not going to come up with a personality type that resonates. As hard as it is to resist the urge to respond as who you want to be rather than as who you are, there is really no point in adorning yourself with some idol’s personality. Not if you really want to discover something about yourself.

I recently attended a workshop about communication across generations, and I experienced that “whoa” factor when hearing about the values and preferred communication styles presumed to define me based only on the era in which I was born, my age group, aka Generation X:

  • Works better alone
  • Expects swift communication
  • Wants to be heard
  • Values the entrepreneurial spirit, loyalty, independence & creativity
  • Appreciates and expects access to information
  • Likes feedback and uses it to adapt
  • Works smarter, not harder
  • Wants to be kept in the loop
  • Responds to an informal style of communication

It’s hard to imagine that these descriptors do not apply to everyone in the world though, right? They seem so commonplace to me, so universally human. But then we talked about the complications we sometimes face in communicating with our parents and grandparents, and with college students. People who maybe lived through the depression, and others who were born after 19-freaking-80. When you think about it, it seems impossible that we'd all identify with the same Facts of life character.

Consider the perspective of someone who had to tune in for the nightly news to receive a polished report about selected developments in the ongoing war; compared with that of the person watching the events of September 11th unfold alongside the confused and terrified media.

What if you wanted to call your spouse to tell him something important, but he was not at home, so you just didn’t get to tell him. Or you have to leave a message on his huge, clunky answering machine that will be recorded onto an actual cassette tape.

I take the ability to text, voicemail, and generally track my husband for granted, but these innovations have developed over the course of my lifetime. College students have never experienced a delay in communication. They have no frame of reference for a scenario in which their message will not be heard.

It’s easy to get all grandmotherly about this kind of thing, to squawk about: “kids these days” and how they have it so easy. But I’m not so sure that they do. They’ve got nowhere to hide from the constant influx of information. They’ve had an unobstructed, front row seat to Colombine, Oklahoma City, Iraq, and God help us, the legacy of George W. Bush. Anything could happen, at any time, and they’re going to live for the moment. We’ve made sure to stroke their egos, to boost their self esteem, to ensure that everyone’s a winner and everyone gets a trophy. Isn't it our onus to figure out how to talk with this legacy we've created?

I think we can all just get along, we just need to find some common ground. What better way to start than by finding out What color crayon are you?


Rita said...

Yes, the element quiz was erie, and so was my Harry Potter Character (Luna Lovegood!) I didn't know if she'd be an important enough character to be listed as an end match on a Facebook quiz, but she was.

Now, my Holden lament. See, I did not hate the book, but by the time I read it, it was over-hyped and also kind of outdated (there were other books, now classics that my own kids would never relate to--that spoke more clearly to me). About a year ago, I read a book called King Dork by Frank Portman and his character precisely illustrated my feelings about Catcher in the Rye (proving I am not alone!):

"I should mention that The Catcher in the Rye is this book from the fifties. It is every teacher's favorite book. The main guy is a kind of misfit kid superhero named Holden Caulfield. For teachers, he is the ultimate guy, a real dreamboat. They love him to pieces. They all want to have sex with him, and with the book's author, too, and they'd probably even try to do it with the book itself if they could figure out a way to go about it. It changed their lives when they were young. As kids, they carried it around with them everywhere they went. They solemnly resolved that, when they grew up, they would dedicate their lives to spreading The Word.
It's kind of like a cult.

They live for making you read it. When you do read it you can feel them all standing behind you in a semicircle wearing black robes with hoods, holding candles. They're chanting "Holden, Holden, Holden…" And they're looking over your shoulder with these expectant smiles, wishing they were the ones discovering the earth-shattering jobs of The Catcher in the Rye for the very first time.
Too late, man. I mean, I've been around The Catcher in the Rye block. I've been forced to read it like three hundred times and don't tell anyone but I think it sucks."
I print this only for your amusement.

But, hey whatever... did you take that quiz? It was barely in English? I can't trust a quiz about literature that's clearly translated. Language has to be an important factor in determining which classic character you are, no?

Anyway... Oooooh I hope I'm the red crayon!

Me, You, or Ellie said...

I, for one, think we can all get along, I do. I don't know many college students -- well, I *do* know Chapel Hill Girl -- but I know a lot of teenagers. The best way to get along with them, I've found, is to be outrageous and swear a lot. They love that.

I tried to take the Crayon Color quiz, but got stopped dead in my tracks by this quesiton:

What is the most important thing in your life?
•Having fun
•Not letting things bug me
•Trying new stuff
•My boyfriend
•Living each moment like your last
•Just smile and wave!

I think we could all get along a lot better if the crayon quiz had better choices. Like, where's the choice that would solidly get me the black crayon???

Anyway. Good one, Jacquie. Love the riff on communication and its speed, or lackthereof.


Hsin-Yi said...

I think that is an incredibly interesting topic.

I can see the difference in myself (34) and some of the younger people I know. They LOVE using Facebook + Myspace as venues to air all sorts of information, whereas I prefer to play WordTwist. Not to say that I don't post updates, but I don't do it every other minute.

Plus I think that the total influx of information has a negative side to it. It has increased our celebrity obsessions, and lowered our ability to actually talk to another human being, in person.

That said, I was exposed to computers at a pretty young age, and I love having one. I have no idea what I'd do without the internet (though I like breaks from it). There would hundreds of pointless unanswered questions keeping me up at night!

Now I have to go take the Crayon quiz.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Okay, so I just had to find out which color crayon I was. What a sneaky way to get me back on to Facebook, Jacquie. Thanks a lot.

But the result, as a result of reading your mind provoking post, is in question; did I just want to be purple? Did I in fact respond as who I want to be rather than as who I AM? (There were honestly some questions that did not have ANY answers that described me, so I did the best that I could. Really.)

I love the post. And thank god I can respond, immediately.

San Diego Momma said...

After some major unwanted insights into my personality, I completely refuse to take any of those FB quizzes. No way, no how. Denial is my refuge.