CW: Mention of incest
Are you an angel? A baddie? A rebel? Or a full-on devil child? The Innocence Test will tell you in exchange for an examination of all your “impure” actions.
Created by Ella Menashe PO ’23 and her best friend Grace Wetsel, the Innocence Test is an updated version of the classic Rice Purity Test.
Created by Rice University students, the Rice Purity Test calculates one’s purity score after they check off various statements that describe risque actions. Although the Rice Purity Test has been continually updated since its creation in 1924, Menashe and Wetsel believe it is out of touch with modern-day signifiers of impurity, such as sexting.
“I think there’s bestiality and incest on there. And we were like, ‘I don’t know if those are some things we think are super applicable. I hope not,’” Menashe said.
The Innocence Test consists of 100 statements, each signifying a step away from purity. Each statement checked off adds a point to users’ scores, which determines their labels. Ranging from “been on a date” to “had the police called on you,” the statements capture the breadth of scandalous behavior, according to Menashe and Wetsel.
In the beginning, the best friends used the test as a way to stay in contact while attending colleges across the country, measuring their college antics.
“We originally made the Innocence Test to be a point of comparison between our lives — not like we’re comparing us to each other, but more like, ‘Here’s what I’ve done, and let’s talk about it,’” Menashe said.
Realizing this tradition could become something more, the duo turned to the holy grail of all online quizzes: BuzzFeed. After a brainstorming session that lasted multiple days, they created 170 statements, then narrowed it down to 100.
In late December, the BuzzFeed quiz was uploaded onto the site. The duo initially promoted the test to close friends on social media. They turned to TikTok and quickly went viral. Posted on Dec. 27, Wetsel’s first TikTok promoting the test currently has 6.7 million views and 1.6 million likes. Other promotional videos for the test soon followed.
“And then all of a sudden … all of these people are taking the test,” Menashe said. “We thought maybe a few people would from TikTok or mostly from Snapchat — mostly our friends would. And then, all of a sudden, thousands of people were taking it … and we had no idea what was gonna happen.”
According to Menashe, the BuzzFeed quiz was taken 1.4 million times in the first 24 hours after it was uploaded, signifying that the modern take on the Rice Purity Test was appreciated.
One of the distinguishing factors of the Innocence Test is the description users receive upon completion of the test, a feature required by BuzzFeed. For example, part of the “Angel” designation reads, “Fix your halo, honey, and keep up the good work.” This aspect of the quiz differentiates it from the Rice Purity test, which only provides a numerical score.
“And the funny thing about that is we wrote it so quickly,” she said. “We were like, ‘Haha!’ and stuck the bios in. And that ended up being what people really liked. But that was kind of an accident [because of] just how it worked out on BuzzFeed,” Menashe said.
A couple days later, the duo decided their product deserved its own site. The Innocence Test claimed its dot-com domain after a friend of Menashe’s created the site.
“I’d say that people like purity tests in the same way that we like finding ways to quantify experiences relevant to us on an individual level.” —Ella Menashe PO ’23
The virality of the test was, at times, overwhelming for the creators. They said they tried to curb the notion that the statements should be viewed as a to-do list, adding a statement to their website: “The Innocence Test is not a bucket list, nor do we endorse the behaviors listed below.”
However, many comments referring to the test as a bucket list flooded the promotional videos. The creators became especially concerned when 13- and 14-year-old users made such comments.
Other comments condemned the inclusion of statements such as “driven under the influence” and “texted while driving,” viewing their inclusion as an endorsement.
Menashe stands by the creation of the test despite the pushback.
“I don’t ever want my Innocence Test score to be 100,” she said. “I think we have some [statements] on there that are honestly really dangerous. And we really tried to make it as a measure of stepping away from innocence or purity.”
Menashe said she is also open to creating new versions of the test for different “subgroups” after hearing feedback from users that the test wasn’t applicable to them or did not fit their maturity level.
In the comment sections of the promotional videos, people connected with each other based on their scores and categorizations.
“I’d say that people like purity tests in the same way that we like finding ways to quantify experiences relevant to us on an individual level. We like checking off boxes and finding things that we have in common with other people because it makes us feel human. We like finding boxes that we don’t check because it makes us unique,” Menashe said via message in a follow-up interview.
Ultimately, Menashe believes that social media was designed to bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t have interacted. Therefore, it is no surprise to the Innocence Test co-creator that the idea of a purity test not only persists after almost a century but thrives.