We’ve all partaken in the occasional survey – whether it be for business (customer feedback), pleasure (what’s your personality type), political purposes (donkey or elephant) or just to get a head count of your household (U.S. census).
Back in the day, I used to peruse my Seventeen Magazine in search of a survey about boyfriend types or what my nail polish color said about me. In college I took the Meyers Briggs Personality Inventory to find out if I was an INFP, or maybe it was an ESTJ. Even TV is dependent on surveys; The Nielsen ratings and “Family Feud” couldn’t exist without them.
Questionnaires, inventories, surveys – whatever you want to call them – have been around for eons. The concept is ancient – literally. According to my sources, the Babylonians were the first known society to survey the population in the form of a census. They counted people, livestock and other goods to determine the one thing older than surveys: taxes. The practice took place nearly 6,000 years ago, circa 3800 B.C.
Surveys – of the non-censusical form – can be entertaining and informative. They provide a window for us to look through back at ourselves. Lately, however, I feel like I’ve been deluged with windows – and I’m a Mac user. Surveys are popping up all over the place as they spider their way across the World Wide Web. They’ve become practically as abundant as passwords. Surveys: Want to take one? Or a dozen? Click here.
They all begin with a question, then follow up with a bunch more, which come together to answer the question you started with. In the last week, I’ve completed the following: Which TV mom are you? (Marge Simpson) What’s your medieval profession? (archer) What day of the week are you? (Thursday) Which state should you live in? (Hawaii – duh).
Some surveys complicate the simple. Like the one that offered to tell me what type of woman I am – um, the female type? Or the one that assessed which kind of hippie I’d be. Who knew there was more than one kind of hippie?
But wait. I’m just getting started. There are surveys to help you determine who you truly are, or at least who you would be, if you were a 70s sitcom, Brady kid, celebrity pet, garden flower, household tool, vegetable, famous painter, Disney princess, candy bar, carnival ride, Beatle’s song, insect type, gemstone, color of the rainbow, houseplant, character from Titanic (or Star Wars or Downton Abbey or Twilight or Toy Story) and so on and so on to infinity and beyond.
I’ve completed a few of these surveys – okay, maybe more than a few – but afterward tend to wonder why. I don’t really need the science behind these tests to know I’d be Picasso on a merry-go-round with a hammer. Or, if I were stranded on a deserted island I’d be Gilligan, or as a candy bar I’d be sweet but also a little nutty. In addition, I am aware of my inclination to identify with broccoli, butterflies, Buzz Lightyear and Bobby Brady (don’t ask).
I don’t need a survey to tell me who I am. None of us does, but that isn’t what this is about. It’s all silly really and these little diversions are made for fun. Besides, every once in awhile, a survey throws me a snippet of information that’s new to me. Like the one on which ancient civilization I’d be from. Surprise, surprise, I’d got Babylonia, where I’d probably be busy – counting my sheep and other livestock.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication.” You can read more and follow her column on the Slices of Life page on Facebook.