Black and blue and red all over

Frustrated male working on laptop at desk

In general, I keep the inanities of the 21st century at arm’s length. But even I fell down the rabbit hole when it came to That Dress. You know the one I mean. It must be the first time a dress worn by the mother of the bride made international news. (And I thought you weren’t supposed to upstage your daughter.)

A young Scottish woman uploaded the polarizing photograph after a debate with her friends and family. Is the dress white and gold, or black and blue? The argument went global, so social media experts and viral marketers will debate the poorly lit photograph of a nondescript dress for years to come.

As a fan of optical illusions and M.C. Escher, I wanted the mystery solved. My theory: the over-exposed background convinced some the dress was in shadows, so we saw it as darkened white, while in reality the blue and black dress was illuminated from in front. A New York Times article eventually agreed.

Graphic showing how different people saw the dress from the New York Times

Graphic illustrating how different people saw the dress from the New York Times

I never got the chance to crow about my discovery. By the next day, everybody had already had enough. Frustrated Twitter users told their followers to get a life.

I get it. Being on Twitter all day is as stressful as flipping channels—you see the same things, over and over again, but never in-depth. (Tumblr is similar, but the TV’s on mute.) People who use it the most are the first ones to develop Twitter Rage. If you’re on it, you need a way to accept popular memes without going crazy. It’s the nature of the beast, no matter how you dress it.

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