Saturday, February 28, 2015


So, in the past week or so, the internet world has seen quite a lot of commotion about this particular piece of apparel...

Yes.  The infamous dress.

Now, most of us understand why the color-changing phenomenon happened (thanks to the ever-useful input of the scientists.  We love our scientists!) and this post is certainly not to bandwagon about the mystifying dress. Hopefully the hype is dying down and it's a little late for that. Instead, I want to examine a few lessons we might have learned from this whole fiasco:

First, it takes very little to set the internet in an uproar.  I think we all knew that already though.  But this uproar was built off the same thing that breeds any controversy: groups of people seeing things differently.  Normally we have some degree of understanding when we take to controversial grounds because things like politics and religion and our other favorite controversial conversations aren't really that concrete.  We tend to understand that other people have other interests and situations and that explains their differing views.  So there's a bit more tolerance there on the whole (although not always).  There often exists a concession that it's okay to disagree on such topics.

For the dress, though, people started freaking out.  Because this controversy was rooted in something that we all rely on so thoroughly--our own eyesight-- many people became quite passionate about something really quite trivial.  As far as controversies on the internet go, this dress is probably of the least consequence.  But because we assume that our visual sight is a pretty sure foundation, we feel pretty justified in arguing the point past its pertinence.  We've been seeing the same colors as other people for so long that when things suddenly change, we freak out.  People were getting in arguments with friends and family and strangers alike, some wondering what was wrong with everyone else and some wondering what was wrong with themselves, fearing an onset of colorblindness or worse, without stopping to consider that the other points of view might indeed be valid.

It's amazing how riled up we can become over little things when we think that we are invariably right.

It took a long time for people to understand that both could be right.  It would appear that when arguing over the color of a dress, it would be a concrete enough discussion to settle unanimously one just one solution, but oftentimes multiple correct answers are available to questions, and we don't always recognize that.  As fallible humans, we often get into thinking ruts that dictate our perceptions of things--there is only one solution; I can trust my eyes and no one else's; people who disagree with me must be delusional or lying.  But usually the truth requires opening our minds to realize that the opposite is the case.  There are many solutions.  Many opinions and views can be trusted.  People's differing opinions are sincere and they don't want to be difficult.

Finally, I hope we're able to look at what's gone on here and better appreciate the importance of context.  The ambiguity of the color of the dress comes from its lack of background information in the picture, which can help our eyes decide what kind of filter to process it under.  Is it in the shadows? Is it in broad daylight? Things would be much clearer if we had more information there.  Likewise, the dress can look different based on the context of the viewer's surroundings.  Many people reported seeing the dress in one color set at first, and then in a very different way not long afterwards.  Their viewing environment put context to the ambiguity of the dress color and changed how they saw things.

For our daily lives, we should make our best effort to make sure that we can gather as much information as possible to give context to our problems and the situations that life presents us.  Of course, this context isn't always available, and that's why our personal context plays such a role, too.  The mindset that you're in when you approach a person or see a problem will often dictate your perception of it, and therefore your reaction.  If we can do more to make sure that our interactions come from a place of understanding and love, we will be able to avoid much of the heartache or anguish that controversy and differences can cause.

So, for all of you who have lost hope in humanity for everyone's great obsession and distraction over such an insignificant trifle, nothing is lost if we can learn something about ourselves in the process.