The debate over this dress is one of those weird internet phenomenons that we can’t quite explain, but we try to the very best of our ability to understand. I came home on Thursday to a confused and indignant storm of internet comments debating over the color of the dress. It took me an hour to figure out what was even going on or even to recognize that I had already saw the picture several times. My initial reaction was that the dress was so obviously, irrevocably gold and white. And then the color changed before my very eyes. I was utterly appalled to perceive the fabric as black and blue, when I had so vehemently disagreed with such an opinion minutes before. My experience left me questioning all that was true with the world, but it later gave me some sort of new breadth of understanding, as I felt like I could comprehend each side of the argument.
Now the effect of the dress going viral has been pretty extraordinary. What originated as a Tumblr post soon made its way across the internet, and even onto the evening news. I came to school the next day only to witness my classmates shaking their phones at each other to gather reviews of the controversial picture. Even teachers made it a point to take their position on the color of the dress. The whole thing was pretty unbelievable. And now, just a few days later, it seems like the internet has returned to normal. The hype has died down and barely anyone is even concerned with the original picture, unless they’re making a couple of memes poking fun at it. The entire situation is almost satirical. How could we all have been concerned with something so trivial, only to forget about it days later?
I think the outburst over the dress lends some significant commentary to human nature. The reason why the picture became so well-known was because it was a dividing line. You were either team blue or black or team white and gold (or some other poor, misrepresented minority). It is in our nature to assume that what our eyes see is correct, and no amount of our friends shouting their opposite opinion at us can change our mind. We are very convinced that our eyes cannot lie to us, and that our perception of reality is the truth. When you look at the actual science behind the varying perceptions, things get interesting. The reason most people see the dress as either gold and white or black and blue is a result of the principle known as color constancy. Basically, it depends on what people interpret to be the source of the light in the picture. For those who believe the dress to be lit with blue light, their brain subtracts the effect of the blue light and assumes the original color to be white. People who believe the dress is lit by yellow light perceive the opposite.
While a lot of people have found this whole ordeal to be pointless or waste of time, I actually believe it to be a valuable experience. I find it so amusing that such a huge number of people contributed their opinion over something as unimportant as the color of some stranger’s dress. In a way, we were united in disagreement. It also shows how willing we are as humans to stick to what we believe is the right way to see things. And it’s definitely not limited to a dress. Humans are passionate beings, and we get caught up in debates all the time; we can only hope they lead to compromise and progress. The situation also leaves room for criticism. It’s a little frightening that the internet was dominated by the image of a dress when we could’ve spent that time talking about social issues, actual problems affecting actual people.
But overall, I think we should remember these last couple of days of weirdness as not just some crazy meme that took over the internet, but a chance to learn that our perception of realities can differ from other people’s, even if we’re technically seeing the same thing. And we should try our very best to learn from each other, even if, at first, we don’t see eye to eye.