Many Chinese young people today only date people who match them on Myers-Briggs, but is this personality test really meaningful?
“INFJs usually act as special gentle companions for ENTPs”, Mali Liu shared an article about Myers-Briggs types on her social media account. She is an unwavering devotee of The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), as shown by her usual posts on her social media accounts that analyse Myers-Briggs personality types.
“As an INFJ type, the friends I’ve been able to build deep relationships are basically the ENTPs, INFPs, and INTJs.” She admits that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has a huge impact on her friendships.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), one of the world’s most widely used personality tests, has taken off in recent years among the Chinese young people. Discussions and comments related to the Myers-Briggs tests are everywhere on the internet, with memes about the Myers-Briggs 16 personality types being increasingly popular.
The trending topic around this test on Weibo, one of Chinese most popular social media platforms, has already reached 2.94 billion views and around 685,000 posts, and these figures are growing drastically every day.
Most of these posts come from their daily lives: “What’s the INFJs’ view of love? I was dating an INFJ last week, but sometimes he made me confused,” “For INFJs, the spiritual world is really important” etc.,
many people share their doubts and thoughts abou16 different personality types of MBTI based on their own experiences, while other people ask some questions related to how to get along with different types of people.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality test based on a theory created by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who published the book Psychological Types in 1921, in which he classified everyone as a “perceiver” or “judge”.
In the 1940s, Katharine Cook Briggs from the USA and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers read this book, and they found its theories so useful that they adapted Jung’s theories to divide the personality into 16 different personality types. After that, they published the first MBTI material in 1962.
Today the most popular free 16 personality types test website in China is 16personalities.com, where each question has five levels from agreement to disagreement. Each tester is given separate results for each of the four dimensions depending on their option preference. For example, INFP means you tend to “introvert”, “intuition”, “feeling” and “perception”.
The MBTI has been used for a long time as a psychological test for many companies to test their employees, and this has led to many people knowing about the test and different personality types.
In 2021, the Korean reality show MBTI Inside was launched, inviting 16 people with different MBTI personality types and assigning them to two different rooms, the Introvert room and the extrovert room depending on their types. T
he spread of this variety show on the Chinese internet led to a significant increase in the discussion of the MBTI on the internet. During the Winter Olympics, Chinese skier Ailing Gu introduced her MBTI personality type in an interview, thus the MBTI began to be more widely known to the public in China as evidenced by the fact of increasingly Chinese young people put their MBTI personality types on their social media profile.
On the Chinese online database and social networking service Donban, lots of posts on the 16 different personality types of MBTI are updated daily.
The Post-95 Social Attitudes and Social Relationships Survey Report released by the Chinese social app Tan Tan in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences shows that the post-95s place more importance on internal fit when making friends, and prefer to divide their communities or groups by interest tags.
“Nowadays people are more curious about themselves and want to find the key to empower themselves,” says Dan Xie, who is studying for a PhD in psychology at James Cook University, “and the MBTI personality types division gives everyone a convenient way to do that.”
‘The three groups of people with whom I can build a close relationship are basically INFPs, INTJs and ENTPs‘
“What’s your MBTI personality type?” Mali Liu asked when she first met her classmate Iris. She currently is a postgraduate student in contemporary photography, who is also a big fan of MBTI. She even added her MBTI personality type in her Instagram profile.
When meeting new people, she has a habit of guessing their MBTI types based on their conversational style. Also, she is the person who always takes the initiative to ask the other person in chat about the type of MBTI. “I can usually guess their type correctly,” she says, “which helps me understand how to communicate with them more effectively.
“I often find myself having different opinions from S(Sensing) people,” says Liu. As an INFJ, she feels that she has less control over realistic and tangible aspects such as data direction, while people with the S (Sensing) personality type tend to focus on discussing data and verifying information in a more practical manner. Therefore sometimes they can be a bit strict and rigid in her opinion.
Liu’s social media feed is filled with content related to the MBTI, and she shares MBTI-related memes and personality analyses on her personal WeChat page almost every day. “I find these contents interesting, and they help me understand myself and my friends better,” she says, and she enjoys telling others about her MBTI personality type.
For Liu, the three groups of people with whom she can build a close relationship are basically INFPs, INTJs and ENTPs. “I crave spiritual communication with friends, not just being playmates, and I often feel mentally drained and need a friend who can help me snap out of that state. In my experience, ENTPs are particularly good at providing that kind of support.”
She recalls a time when she had to find someone to help her with the camera on short notice, after having to change her project plan unexpectedly close to the deadline. She felt very anxious, but as she was not good at asking for help, she was in a deep state of mental exhaustion.
She shared her problem with an ENTP friend who immediately understood her dilemma and gave her advice on how to solve it. With the help of her friend, the problem she had been struggling with for days was finally solved. “I often need rational, optimistic friends to help me solve my problems.”
‘I decided to avoid relationships with INFPs in the future‘
“I remember opening a WeChat group chat a few years ago, and found that my friends were discussing their MBTI types. This was the first time I knew about this thing, and I felt very curious, so I clicked on the test link.” Pengjing Gao says. She is an art student studying in China, who has a very positive attitude towards MBTI.
Gao first learned about the MBTI two years ago when she was an undergraduate student studying fashion design. “After taking the test I learnt that I am an energetic ENFP, and I found that almost all my friends are also F(Feeling) people, we all like to follow our feelings rather than rely on logic.”
After taking the MBTI test with her friends, she felt more connected to them on a spiritual level due to their shared understanding of each other’s personalities. “It made me feel as if I had a deeper understanding of myself and my friends. After that, we shared interesting contents we had swiped on social media platforms about MBTI almost every day in chat group.”
Until then, she had often felt like an odd person due to her boundless energy and untamed imagination. Although these traits were responsible for her dynamic and creative approach to life, they also made it difficult for her to focus on any one thing for very long. Moreover, she is a person who needs the company of friends badly.
She says that a couple of years ago she had to be quarantined at home for seven days because of China’s epidemic management policy and that she found every day miserable because she could not go out and see her friends, whereas many of her friends enjoyed their time alone.
“Before learning about the MBTI personality type I always wondered if I was a bit strange, but the analysis of the ENFP results showed me the strengths that this personality brings to me, and I also learnt that many people have the same personality type as me. It made me more accepting of myself.”
Gao says that the MBTI test helped her gain a deeper understanding of what she requires in a relationship. By learning more about her own MBTI personality type, Gao is able to identify the qualities and traits that complement her own and those that do not. This allows her to make more sensible decisions about the kind of people she wants to pursue romantic relationships with.
“My ex-boyfriend was an INFP, he was too evasive and I am a person who likes to face problems head on. One of the main traits of an INFP is to avoid problems, conflicts, and this bothered me so much.”
Her ex-boyfriend was consumed with work and often couldn’t reply to her messages. Feeling neglected, she broached this issue with him, but he just dodged the conversation repeatedly.
“He later revealed to me after we broke up that he had been trying to resolve our issues on his own, not realising this was actually making things worse. Since then, I decided to avoid relationships with INFPs in the future, because for me, the only way to solve a problem in a relationship is to face it directly together.”
‘I took the test five times, and all five times the test results were different‘
In contrast, there are some young Chinese who believe that the MBTI personality test is meaningless, as exemplified by Yuting Zhang. “I took the test five times, and all five times the results were different,” Yuting Zhang says. She is 23 years old, and as a typical Gen-Zer, she is curious about everything that is trending.
She took the MBTI personality test five times in two months when it first became popular in China a couple of years ago, but the results were different all five times. “I’ve taken the ESFJ, ENFJ, ESTJ, ESTP and so on, and every time I read the personality profiles afterward, I felt as if they were describing me, but they didn’t seem to be. Especially when everyone around me was talking about MBTI personality types and thought the results were accurate, I always seemed out of place.”
Whenever she took the test, she didn’t know which answer to choose for many of the questions that best matched her personality, which led to her test results being off time and time again. “Everyone is a different individual. Judging what kind of person you are by a few questions is too limited in my opinion.”
Zhang’s former internship company required every employee to take the MBTI personality test before entering the company. “I remember when I joined the company, I learned that a leader particularly disliked P(Perception) types (P types are often perceived as freedom lovers who like to procrastinate) and felt that this type of person was not very passionate about their work, but I think this is not always the case. Many people around me who are P types are very good at their jobs. This is why I think the MBTI personality test is always misleading some people.”
In fact, some studies demonstrate that almost 50% of test takers are assigned a different personality type on the MBTI at short intervals ( e.g. five weeks) than before. However, is it because their personalities have really changed? The answer is obviously no. As a result, the significance of the MBTI has been questioned by many people, especially some psychological experts.
“The MBTI is psychologically meaningless. It is a good commodity. People are no longer essentially human, but just commodity labels alienated by modern capitalism,” says psychoanalyst Linchuandengluo, “By labelling, people can get to know people and the world more quickly, but such labels may not be reliable at times.”
The creators of the MBTI did not have a grounding in psychology, but just adapted Jung’s theory from experience to create the test, and this has led to a deviation from Jung’s theory. However, Linchuandengluo agrees that the MBTI does offer a lot of help to the general public and make Jung’s theory easier to disseminate and communicate.
“If the aim is to perceive oneself, the MBTI is not enough,” Linchuandengluo says, “Psychological Typing is a way of combining a philosophical approach to personality enhancement, and for this, the first thing you need to do is: ditch the test and go back to philosophy.”
Although the MBTI continues to be a popular topic among Chinese young people, there is a growing sentiment among them that it should be approached with a more rational mindset.
“Please love specific people and never blindly indulge in the MBTI personality types. It should not be a tool to divide people, but rather to support diversity in the world,” says MBTI enthusiast Mali Liu.
Featured image by Hannah Busing via Unsplash CC