Have you heard? Your astrological sign influences your personality, your introversion (or extroversion) informs your habits, your sleep patterns explain how you relate to the world, and even your face shape holds insight into… well something. Surely, something.
Our desire to connect all these dots makes sense—wanting to know one’s self is just part of the human condition. But thanks to a TikTok and meme-fueled renaissance of personality tests, our interest in why we are the way we are—or really, what makes us special—seems to be at an all-time high. And as social media introduces concepts like “main character energy,” doing things “for the plot,” and entering one’s “villain era,” it’s easier than ever to see yourself as a character in a story, ready to be categorized and dissected.
Except, well, we’re not characters, we’re real people. And it takes more work to hold space for a real person’s complexity than to quickly learn that they’re, say, an Aquarius or an introvert. The stories and videos below dig into the different ways we, through the internet, endeavor to understand ourselves better—not only how we seem but how we are.
Image by ajijchan / Getty Images
“People love an archetype—and the Enneagram test is trending again. ‘As with many phenomena of questionable scientific origins, it has gained popularity despite a lack of endorsement by the academic community. On TikTok, the hashtag #enneagram has 370.4 million views.’” -Samantha Leal
SL: “As someone who has been consuming astrology content since I was in my early teens, this revelation gives me pause and makes me feel things. But also, isn’t wanting to understand ourselves generally tied to wanting to understand others? (No one tell me if that’s not true.)”
The New York Times
SL: “I like that this extrapolation on a study about why humans love sad songs is not only examining the study, but also examining why we’d want this study in the first place. ‘With whom are we connecting? The artist? Our past selves? An imaginary person? And how can sad music be “all about” anything? Doesn’t the power of art derive, in part, from its ability to transcend summary, to expand experience?’”
SL: “Knowing how our individual selves are connected to our collective experience is much needed, and I believe, totally misunderstood. This is one way to look at it.”
SL: “Have you heard about money mindsets? This podcast episode has a lot of aha moments about why people are so curious about them these days.”
Right as Rain by UW Medicine
SL: “I really appreciate what Milla Titova from the Happiness and Well-being Lab discusses in this piece. Namely: ‘Even though it’s more accurate, it’s harder to think in continuums versus categories. However, life is way more complicated, as we see day after day. Binary things aren’t really binary. Most people are somewhere in the middle.’”
SL: “In this piece, writer Alice Garnett focuses on Gen Z specifically, and examines why they have an especially soft spot for these tests. ‘For my generation, both the real and online worlds feel increasingly chaotic, as historic markers of stability such as homeownership drift out of reach, while a ton of compulsive content drifts into view. As we spend more time online, young people are looking to social media to find a sense of belonging and community, but where millennials only had to agonize over which Hogwarts house they belonged to, Gen Z has a hyper-specific mass of subtypes to choose from.’”
The Washington Post
SL: “More and more companies are having workers take personality tests—and not just things like corporate-focused ones, I’ve recently met someone whose employer made them take an hours-long course on their human design profile, which, whoa.”
The New York Times
SL: “Even more about employers making workers take personality tests—with The New York Times stating many of these tests aren’t up to date. And this is fascinating: Personality testing is roughly a $2 billion industry(?!).”
SL: “I appreciate The Atlantic’s tongue-in-cheek test here—what your favorite personality test says about your personality.”
Samantha Leal is a travel and lifestyle writer and editor, currently based in Los Angeles. Formerly the deputy editor at Well+Good, she’s also held editorial stints at Marie Claire, Latina magazine, and The Knot. You can find her writing about—well, lots of things—at places like Travel+Leisure, VinePair, Parade.com, Byrdie, Elle.com, SELF.com, and more. You can find her pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.