Surveys are bullshit.
This week I thought I had a great idea. We would survey 100 college students, synthesize the data, and use that information to start our first blog post. Our first blog post was going to be amazing. We would talk about all of the amazing insights we found from surveying this huge group of people. In my mind, I already had the blog post written. Our first blog post would speak of the correlation between college students that felt as though they themselves were productive, and students whom used a physical object to manage his or her time. It was to be profound. It was to be magical. And whatever the insight was, it would start us on our path towards building a time management community to which we would later sell our amazing product. I had it all figured out.
When I opened the survey results spreadsheet today I found an entry from my son. My son is a dual enrollment student and attends college more than half time, making him a great candidate for the survey. He answered all of the questions, and in my opinion, seemed to answer the question honestly. He also marked that he was “Black or African-American”. First and foremost, my family is of caucasian ethnicity. Without debating whether my son actually relates as a different ethnic group versus just gave false information for fun, I know that the information he gave was false. The only reason I know this was because I recognized his e-mail address. As for the rest of the participants…who knows? At this point, I can’t believe that my son was the only one to give false information or dishonest answers.
The validity of the information gathered from surveys is beyond questionable. Currently (being upset does not help), I think the only purpose of a survey is to find people to actually speak with in the future. If I can sit in front of someone and listen to them directly, I can get so much more information…even if the words that come out of the person’s mouth is a complete lie. With a little perspective, I wouldn’t change the fact that we did a survey, but I will not rely on the answers . More important, I will not be writing a profound blog post stating our survey results as facts.
With some reflection, I might rephrase what I said earlier…statistics from surveys are bullshit.