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Obsessive Personality Test Disorder

11/03/2014 16:45 GMT | Updated 11/05/2014 10:59 BST

I succumb, and take the Which Beatle Are You? online test. The result comes back: 'You Got Late '60s Paul McCartney'. My response is mixed - McCartney during that era was isolated from his friends, mired in business problems and teetering towards a breakdown. That said, Abbey Road was a tour de force and his submarine-captain beard was exceptional. Is my facial hair really that luxuriant? Why, thank you, internet-quiz! I had no idea.

Personality tests are enjoying an online resurgence. Previously a staple of tabloids, they fell out of favour as sceptics began to doubt the veracity of the 'If You Answered Mostly B...' scoring system. The scales fell from our eyes, and we saw our scribbles in the margins of Cosmopolitan magazine didn't point the way to inner truth. Now that the calculations are hidden from view under the bonnet of the internet, we're embracing these quizzes like someone who's filled in a Which Online Meme is For You? questionnaire and got the answer 'Personality Tests'.

It's naïve to believe that there's any shred of science behind click-bait quizzes. They're thrown together by overstretched web producers, but we choose to overlook that with kind of the ease with which we pretend our cheap T-shirts have never been touched by tiny fingers in a sweatshop. Surely a garish entertainment website can keep a psychologist on staff to extrapolate links between stock images of kittens and whether someone falls under Hadean or Proterozoic in the Which Geological Eon Do You Really Belong In? test.

The compulsion to waste time in this way is baffling. In terms of usefulness, a gimmicky personality test is on a par with a fortune cookie or a Magic-Eight Ball. Nobody would ever decide to move to Portland, Oregon, or to become a screenwriter on the basis of five squandered minutes on Facebook. And the results flatter, the outcome is never that someone should relocate to Stoke-on-Trent, or take up an apprenticeship in an abattoir. What we're really looking for is affirmation. We want the result to tell us that we are who we hope we are, because we're too riddled with self-doubt to believe it independently. We want a shred of evidence that, despite appearances, we're still person we imagined we'd be when we were seven years old. Notwithstanding being tied to a 95% mortgage and a job where the main creative outlet is deciding what to write in a colleague's leaving card.

Quizzes can throw up surprises: A friend of mine is a lifelong fan of the film Grease, and insists she based her whole personality on the sassy character of Rizzo. She took the 'Which Grease Character Are You?' test only to find out she was actually Sonny, the stocky, middle aged-looking one in John Travolta's gang, memorable only for piping up 'Could she get me a friend?' during Summer Lovin'. She was inconsolable at first, but laughs it off now, which is exactly what Sonny would do.

I inform my wife about my Beatle test, she is nonplussed. She has a thing for 1964 John Lennon, before he went too experimental. She disapproves of experimentalism in all of its forms, and frequently puts the kibosh on my own revolutionary ideas, such as using a makeshift bedpan during winter months. Perturbed that I am the wrong Beatle for my wife, I take the quiz again, trying to skew the answers towards A Hard Day's Night-era Lennon. The answer comes back: 'You Got Late '60s Paul McCartney'. It's consistent, but dispiriting: The 'Which Beatle Are You?' test has thrown up a serious incompatibility in our marriage. Heavy-heartedly, I deliver the news to my wife. "It doesn't matter", she says, "You're not really a Beatle at all."

"I am too a Beatle", I sulk. "The internet said so."

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