Hey, do you have a minute? No really, just five minutes. It’ll only take ten minutes to read this article. Maybe twenty, if you’re a slow reader, but that wouldn’t be my fault.
You can stop reading at any time, of course. But if you do, I can’t promise that you’ll still be entered for a chance to win a $15 OneCard deposit. So you should probably keep reading, because winning a OneCard deposit is better than winning money you can use in multiple places. It’s much easier to only be able to use money in one place as opposed to anywhere else. For example, in a survey of vegetarians, nine out of ten preferred receiving a $20 gift-card that could only be used at one Subway location as opposed to a $50 gift card that could be used at any KFC in the United States.
Speaking of surveys: that’s what I’m here to talk about, because I hate them. Not all of them—I like books that begin with “A Survey of” and deal with history or literature or art. I like Family Feud surveys that ask, “Which one of the seven dwarves describes your wife in bed?” or “Name something that follows the word pork.” I’m even taking a class next semester called “American Religions: A Historical Survey” (just so you know I’m not blindly prejudiced against all surveys).
I like these kinds of surveys in books or on TV because I am not assaulted by them every time I check my email or have a friend in a psychology course. Hendrix Bailey Library has never emailed me begging I read A Survey of Verb Forms in the Eastern United States for a chance to win a bookmark. I like these surveys because thinking of something that follows the word pork is not half as depressing as thinking about “How many hours, on average, do you sleep per night?” or “When is the last time you experienced a feeling of happiness?” or “Rate the perceived value of your education on a scale of one to ten, one meaning little value and ten meaning significant value.”
The only survey I enjoyed taking recently was the one from the KHDX concert committee that asked me how much I like Young Dolph and would I attend his concert, because I rarely get a platform to express the extent of my appreciation for Young Dolph and I am very excited about the prospect of attending his concert. But I really don’t want or even need a platform to talk about sadness, sleep deprivation, or student debt in 250 characters or less and anonymously. I prefer to do that on Twitter non-anonymously for attention and feel fractionally better about myself when I get a few likes for it.
I think that gets at my main problem with surveys: there is no immediate benefit or return for me. That is also my main problem with most things, but with surveys there is one key difference. The very nature of a survey is that it functions under the pretense of caring about my opinion. But in the process of taking most surveys, the strongest opinion I feel throughout the experience is that I hate surveys. Why is it that nearly every survey lacks the self-awareness to ask a reflexive question? Why, at the end of a survey, have I never been asked to rate, on a scale of one to ten, how much I disliked taking this survey?
In writing this article, I felt the obligation to make the minimum effort and do five minutes of research on the topic. I discovered that there are in fact a plethora—or at least two Google results pages—of books on the topic, and particularly about the art of writing good surveys. Either these books are written horribly, or they’re just not being read. If surveys are being written horribly, I’d rather not read them either. And until there are surveys on surveys, I’m forced to yell into the non-survey void instead.