I learned a lot about myself this morning thanks to Dimensional, a social media app that serves up a bunch of personality tests and encourages you to compare results with your friends. Not that I learned much from the tests themselves—personality tests are silly—but I did discover I am someone who can be made aware of an app (in this case, thanks to a Vox piece), instantly download it, then harangue my friends into it, all without questioning whether it’s productive or a potential risk to my privacy.
Truthfully, this shouldn’t have been a revelation; I downloaded the endearingly boring BeReal app immediately upon learning about it in April, wrote about it for Lifehacker that afternoon, and have used it every day since. Is there really much self-awareness to be gained, then, from Dimensional? For you, there might be. Here’s what you need to know about this trendy app.
What does Dimensional do?
Dimensional has been around since 2020. One of the developers says they’re a research psychologist; they’ve lately been hyping it on Reddit. The idea is simple: You log in, take a few tests, look at the breakdown of your insights, and compare results with friends. The more people you cajole into joining you, the more insights you unlock.
Your results are relayed in aesthetically pleasing graphics just begging for a repost. (No, really—they’re begging. When you take a screenshot, text pops up: “Posting to Social? Tag us!”) You get “snapshots” of your traits as they relate to your identity, work style, love life, and motivation. You can sort through dozens of traits—after you unlock them by answering questions—to see what they mean and how many others report similar results. Then, you can look at lists of your greatest strengths, your worst habits in love, and so on and so forth—all determined by the app.
What are the downsides to taking personality tests?
Personality tests are often written off as probable “pseudoscience.” As Simine Vazire, a personality researcher, told Scientific American, “until we test them scientifically we can’t tell the difference between that and pseudoscience like astrology.” You shouldn’t take any free, online quiz expecting to come to the potentially groundbreaking conclusions about yourself most people only come to after paying psychological experts a lot of money over a period of months or years.
The tests on Dimensional vary. I was able to answer some questions to get my Myers-Briggs result, which was the same as it’s always been when I’ve taken other versions of that test online (ENTP, baby). Answering more questions earned me insight into my supposed attachment style, though that one did not match up to what other tests have told me previously. (I didn’t go into this planning to take any of it seriously, and if you download the app, a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted for you, too.)
The app breaks out your “signature” traits. I’m “assertive.” My score for assertiveness, in fact, was 93; Dimensional informed me the average score is 59. I suppose I did make my friends download it. My best friend told me her Myers-Briggs result and attachment style results differed from those she’s gotten from past tests, though once she’d answered more questions, I was at least able to compare our traits via cute little graphs.
That’s the selling point: It’s fun to ponder hypothetical questions and learn about yourself, even if it’s ultimately all meaningless pseudoscience or you’re just reaffirming what you already know (because I don’t need to be told I’m assertive, I promise), but it’s especially fun to compare your results with others’. Honestly, it matters less to me whether I’m truly an ENTP and more what I can learn from discussing that result with others who’ve taken the same test.
What are the downsides?
While I was able to badger some friends into downloading Dimensional, two immediately declined when I sent my referral code. Both reasonably cited privacy concerns. That I was so willing to answer questions about my past relationships and whether I’ve ever lied to get ahead without considering where that personal information might go does say more about me than the app’s assurance I have an “ascender” value archetype. (The other options were “giver,” “individualist,” and “traditionalist.”)
Dimensional’s privacy statement defines “personal information” as “information about an identifiable individual as described under applicable privacy laws. This information may include (without limitation) your name, e-mail address and telephone number.” The statement adds “personal information” does not include information about your employment, business, or profession, nor does it include “information that has been anonymized or aggregated in such a way that there is no serious possibility it can be used to identify an individual, whether on its own or in combination with other information.”
It’s not dissimilar from other apps in that way, though that’s no great comfort. Of note is the section related to employment: On Reddit, the co-founder did mention his own prior work arguing against using personality testing for hiring. (Using tests like Myers-Briggs for hiring is, largely, a bad idea, indeed.)
In addition to any lingering privacy worries, consider two more possible downsides: First, there’s no Android version. Second, it will suck up your time. Unless you have a bunch of iPhone-using friends with whom you’d like to discuss results, it might not be worth answering questions for an hour or more only to discover your phone thinks you’re “altruistic.”