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The Dress: Consensus And Loneliness

Trying To Make Sense Of Viral Content

In just four days ‘The Dress’ has generated more media attention than the former Miss Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, and that’s saying something! So how, we ask, has this dress led to endless social media threads, and so neatly woven itself into the nation’s conversation?


At first we may assume that the ambiguity lies in a clever trick, as with most optical illusions. However, the contention is not so easily appeased. According to Prof Barry C Smith of the University of London's Institute of Philosophy, the wavelengths produced by the image are, in fact, identical each time the dress is viewed, so we must conclude that the problem is one of perception.

With that in mind, we can start stitching together an explanation as to why ‘That Dress’ has made such an entrance onto the social media scene. It seems that ‘That dress’ has waltzed into our lives and ripped in two the very fabric of reality.

It is a rite of passage that at some point in our lives we ask ourselves ‘Is all this real? Or is everybody here mere figments of my imagination, in a world of my mind’s creation? Is this type of thinking: Narcissistic? Yes… meaningful? Probably not. But intriguing? Certainly!

It is the fear of being alone in this alien world which drives the human need for consensus; If only we could agree that this dress is white and gold or blue and black. (It is Definitely white and gold!), then we could get back to business and sleep soundly knowing that the world is once again a happily balanced, agreeable place.

Social media unites us in the face of flux. When we feel out of touch, Facebook reaches out and holds us in an online hug which confirms that, on so many levels, we are not alone. So when an olive-green, inky-blue, white-gold dress flutters past and gets stuck to the web, seeking to destroy all we socially stand for, we unite in the fight to find common ground. Or, at the very least, fabricate a suitable explanation that rules out the possibility that we’re isolated dreamers, separated by personalized perception.

So now, I hear you ask, how and why did ‘That Dress’ strike a chord with so many people? Well, it’s fair to say social media has a benevolent part to play in our day to day communication, and, as a result, represents whatever it is our world is currently talking about; At this moment in time it seems to be a magic dress. But what I think makes this magic dress so special, what underpins its media success, is that the debate sparked and questions asked address something deep in the core of our humanity; An undying curiosity when confronted by the weirdness of the world.

So, as sick as some of you may be of hearing the near mythical tales of the dress whose colour lays in the eye of the beholder, at the very least the dispute has sewn some seeds that have grown into some pretty interesting debate. I’ll leave the rest to twitter and our old avian friend Sam Sparro.

Leo Donnelly

Ever wondered what would happen if you gave a half-crazed, semi-concussed, unstoppable maverick a platform to write about social media? Follow him @LeoAtSMF

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The Dress: Consensus And Loneliness Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, March 03, 2015 Rating: 5
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