Why did this f*cking dress go so viral?

blackbluedress

This dress went viral, internationally, with everyone from BusinessInsider to CNN to SpiegelOnline covering this. It blew up beyond understandable proportions on social media, and was a major topic of discussion at a house party I visited last night in Germany.

To sum it up in a sentence for anyone who doesn’t know: this picture is seen by some as a blue-black and others as a white-gold dress, in reality (according to the woman who took the picture, refered to as McNeil) it is blue-black. This is a link to the actual product.

We can all see it differently because our eyes over- or deemphasize different qualities of the light: some peoples’ eyes take the light as a cue to “lighten” the dress (making it white-gold), whereas others (myself included) seem to average the colors and see it as blue-black. This is interesting, sure, but more interesting is asking ourselves why this went viral.

This dress picture went viral because it doesn’t require any understanding, any facts, any expertise, any thought: it simply requires people to look at something and then give their opinion. This picture is something as accessible to a heart surgeon or an astrophysicist as it is to a cheerleader or a football player. It is something that literally everyone, pretty much anywhere, can talk about and which everyone can form an opinion about.

This actually isn’t all that surprising, one of the things I have learned working in social media is that people prefer the simple story and the simple answer. As I have come to expect from routinely reading the comments on ETT: people are adamant about their uninformed opinion, even if they are wrong. I had a woman at the party last night insult me for seeing the dress as black-and-blue despite the fact that the dress in the picture is unequivocally blue-black in reality.

With approximately 70% of people seeing the blue and black dress as gold and white, we can’t help but acknowledge that humans can be tricked by their eyes. Literally, the majority of people perceive this dress as being colors that it doesn’t contain. Many of these people are aggressive and insulting when debating about it, which is actually comparable to most discussions where science contradicts commonly held beliefs. If people can be so wrong, and yet so arrogant about the color of a dress: it should be no surprise they can act this same way in other contexts.

About Author

Michael Thomas

I come from Boston, Massachusetts, but currently live in Germany, where I study biology. I am politically active and am working on creating my own political movement based on the idea of the government and politicians being almost totally transparent, and localized/decentralized decision making.

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