The Destructive Creep of Homogeneity

Small ripples in the current can collect to form one big destructive tidal wave.

This morning on Facebook, someone posted “Quiz: How Sensitive Is Your OCD Radar? Lets find out right now.” (Yes, “Lets.”)

I was intrigued because the post showed the link with an image of three shapes that looked identical to me. Since I couldn’t see any difference, the quiz looked like a good challenge. I clicked.

The quiz ran me through more than a dozen questions. Each question showed three shapes. Two were identical. I had to choose the shape that was slightly different. (Turns out the image in the Facebook post was altered for the quiz–one of the shapes in the image was quite different from the others.)

I scored 100%. The quiz declared me a bona fide obsessive compulsive disordered person in a way that felt like a affirming pat on the back. Here’s an excerpt: “1. You have a killer eye for spotting the tiniest, most invisible inaccuracies, errors and mistakes. 2. And it’s very important to you to correct them 🙂.”

As far #1 is concerned, the quiz does test your ability to spot small dissimilarities when two identical shapes are placed alongside another shape that is slightly different. But it doesn’t test an ability to spot “most invisible inaccuracies, errors and mistakes” for things that are not shapes. 

As for #2, which may speak to OCD, the quiz doesn’t do anything to determine or prove that it’s important to me to correct the differences in the shapes. (The quiz creators get one thing right: They say the quiz has been “created for entertainment and also is not diagnostic by any means.”)

The differences in the shapes didn’t bother me, and I suspect they don’t bother many people who took the quiz.

Ever notice that difference, not homogeneity, is what makes life rich and interesting? 

I took the quiz again, this time purposely getting some answers wrong. Here’s how I was assessed: “Great news! You’re OCD free! You are relaxed, easy going, and whimsical. You know that life is hard enough, and you shouldn’t sweat over the little things. Good for you!!”

There are many ways to interpret that affirming pat on the back, as there are the response to my 100% score. In keeping with the line of thinking I’ve already introduced, this is how I interpret it: “Great news! You’re OCD free! You’re oblivious to nuance and detail. Life is hard enough for you, so don’t sweat over the little things, like life being hard for others because they are made to feel different.”

Differences–subtle, bold, and everything in between–is a gift from nature. It makes the world a better place and is integral for advancing human thought.

Difference is not a mistake, inaccurate, or an error, which this quiz subtly emphasizes in its response to my 100% score. To paraphrase James Baldwin, you should take a deep look at your belief system to find out why you think of difference as a negative thing.