Infamous news aggregator and online quiz-maker, BuzzFeed, recently posted a quiz, "Can We Guess How Many People You've Hooked Up With?" Like most BuzzFeed quizzes, this one features a series of random images and questions, all supposedly tailored to determine, in the end, just how many people you -- esteemed reader -- have hooked up with.
As has been documented ad nauseam, BuzzFeed is, for the most part, a grotesque excuse for a news publication, with journalists at the New York Times, Politico, Gawker and many others doubting the legitimacy of the site that -- despite its critics -- never fails to garner clicks by appealing to individuals' boundless curiosity about their own selves.
I'm sorry to admit that I contributed one of those many self-indulgent clicks when the aforementioned "hookup quiz" appeared on my newsfeed.
Out of primal, self-centered curiosity, I took the quiz, which -- among many bizarre questions -- asked me what my choice pizza topping would be, and provided a list of possible answers. I chose "exotic cheese" (who knows what that means, but cheese is cheese, and cheese is always delicious).
Perhaps it was the "exotic" component of my answer, or perhaps it was my having chosen "a bar" as being the ideal spot for a date. Regardless, BuzzFeed's ultimate guess was hilariously high.
Alas, I was amused. So, I copied the link and shared it with 10 friends (male and female) via Gchat, shamefully perpetuating the BuzzFeed click cycle.
They each took the quiz and we compared results, all of which were pretty outlandish, with one friend receiving a score of 653 hookups. Really, BuzzFeed? Really? All of that, garnered from questions about pizza and sunset preferences? (A brief aside: It is my suspicion that these quizzes either have absolutely no legitimate basis whatsoever OR BuzzFeed has a top secret psychological researcher on staff who has pinpointed ways to reveal the innermost workings of the human psyche via images of dogs napping.)
But the really interesting part of this whole BuzzFeed quiz-taking experience came after we shared our ridiculous results, and when we then began to ask each other what our real-life results were.
"Well, it's obviously not anywhere close to 653," said my friend, "but I'm honestly not sure. First of all, it depends -- how is BuzzFeed defining 'hookup'?"
Ah, semantics. Great question, my friend. Great question.
How do we, collectively, define one of the most pervasive terms of this generation? Conversations and headlines about today's "hookup culture" have inundated readers since about 2010, with articles like this one in the New York Times, or this one in The Atlantic, or this one in TIME, or this one in the Washington Post. The list goes on. You would think, by now, we'd at least have come to a consensus on what the term "hookup" means -- if not its moral implications.
Not so. As I noted in a previous article, a hookup is, by definition, ambiguous. Unlike dating, which universally implies exclusivity and commitment, hooking up requires further clarification, as it can very well be used to reference everything from a three-second makeout session to full-blown sex. In fact, to say, "We are hooking up," is basically to say that you and someone else are consistently physical with one another, with zero strings attached... but it could go somewhere... maybe.
And if you thought that was confusing and sad, here comes the really confusing and sad part...
Once my 10 friends agreed on the terminology, classifying a hookup as anything from making out to sleeping together, only one of the 10 polled could name the number of people they'd hooked up with.
"Hard to say," said one friend who is now in a long-term relationship, "When I was single, if I was hooking up with someone, I was likely drunk, so I don't really remember."
"Could be anywhere between 20 and 200," said another. "I honestly have no clue. College, especially, is a blur."
If you're reading this and you're older than 35 (e.g. not a millennial), you're probably somewhat scandalized -- and rightly so. Sure, romantic trysts are hardly a modern phenomenon, but the normalcy of "hooking up" is indeed very recent. And yet, despite its relative newness, the deleterious implications of the hookup culture are already all too real, with more and more wondering if it's contributing to the escalating rape epidemic on academic campuses across the country. A growing number are now insisting that we can't combat rape without ending the hookup culture.
I'm inclined to agree, but regardless of how you feel about the status quo hookup culture, you can't deny that it is a bit worrisome when 9/10 people under the age of 30 have trouble tallying the number of people with whom they've been intimate -- with one friend's possible estimate ranging from 20 to 200.
At the very least, these discrepancies certainly make it hard to admonish BuzzFeed for its outlandish guesses. How much more outlandish are they than yours, really?