Llamas are running amuck, creating a stir equal only to the excitement of the OJ Simpson high-speed pursuit. Families are threatening divorce over the accurate color of a dress (even though they’re ALL wrong, more on that later). And yet, the world is in a devastating funk: ISIS executions and kidnappings are at an all-time high, Boko Haram continues to terrorize and evade, Homeland Security funding is getting tossed around like a political football and Spock died. SPOCK.
To be fair, the next biggest wave of attention and reflection was thankfully given to Leonard Nimoy, but what does it say that our culture is so easily distracted by “non-news” when much more devastating, “important” media goes by mostly unnoticed?
Honestly, it tells us more than we might think. Yes, we obviously are experiencing “first world problems”. Yes, our US culture isn’t the most engaged when it comes to foreign and domestic affairs. But we still need community. And the dress hysteria and other seemingly dense internet sensations might provide some insight into how we relate to each other in this modern age.
1) We want to be right, but no one wants to be a jerk
I will be the first to admit that I couldn’t wait to find out that #TheDress was actually brownish-gold and blue, which was how I saw it all along. The dress itself, in person, is evidently blue and black. I cared so much to be right, I looked long and hard to find an article that pulled the Photoshop data to prove my point (mind the language).
I think part of the reason for the hysteria is a simple desire us humans have for order and control. We want to be right and we want to make things fit into nice snug little boxes like they are supposed to. Many of us have strong opinions about the cultural happenings of the day, and probably even think that we are “right”, but very few of us actually speak up (except for the one too many trolls on the internet these days). I think it’s great that our population is diplomatic in nature. It shows a level of kindness that is encouraging to me personally. When the photo circulated and people jumped on the debate, I think it allowed a lot of people who normally hold back to show some personality and healthy sass. We all want a chance to be right every now and then, but most of us don’t want to sacrifice someone else’s self-esteem in the process.
2) We want to be part of a team
Until I finally found someone who saw #TheDress as Blue and Gold, I was pretty freaked out. I started to wonder if this were the way I would finally discover my colorblindness and what that would mean for my future. I then started to have crazy thoughts that someone was playing a horrible trick on me. Alien encounter possibly? Government conspiracy to round up all the Blue/Gold people for a secret mission? (I’ve read too much Divergent obviously) I even begged my friends on Facebook to find one person who saw the dress the same way I did so I could sleep peacefully that night. Pretty dramatic, I know. But I did feel slightly better when one person admitted to having the same experience before I drifted to sleep.
When I learned of a couple more, I started to think of ourselves as kind of a cool elite superhero pack. So rare and beautiful we should be detained and studied.
I’m not surprised now that Team Edwards V Team Jacob/ Team Dawson v Team Pacey, etc was ever a thing. I never personally related to either of these groupings, but I can see how it’s just a fun, mostly harmless way we like to relate to other humans. If you honestly hated someone due to their dedication to a fictional vampire character, I’ll pray for you. With all of the divisiveness in the world today, I like that we still can come together on some pretty harmless, amiable topics.
3) We want a reason to relate
I couldn’t wait to come into the office the next morning to hear what all of my team members experienced from the photo. Maybe it’s the HR person in me, but I just like any excuse to see deeper layers of the people I spend so much time with daily. I heard stories of friends who got into random conversations with strangers over #TheDress. Even though we like to remain in our safe, independent bubble most of the time, I think many of us like any excuse to relate to our neighbors. #TheDress offered a natural ice-breaker that we don’t normally get outside of summer camp and work retreats.
4) Life is hard, dresses and llamas are not
Before I’m even fully awake, my day is bombarded with evil and horrific news via twitter, news apps, etc. A headline is pushed through my phone screen declaring another hundred innocent citizens have died due to war or terrorism. I enter my office to find that something devastating has happened to one of my teammate’s family members. My friends and family are experiencing death or health complications on an almost daily basis (welcome to your 30s!). I hear stories of local government scandal and am notified of competitors and customers trying to rip us off or tarnish our reputation. I worry that I’m not doing enough to prepare for a possible economic decline or not being careful enough to protect my business from fraud. Among all of this is the pressure to rise above and face the daily challenges with confidence and grace.
It’s understandable that in the age of media overload (which is just a glimmer into the problems we have always faced) that the internet would also become saturated with positive, “meaningless” content to serve as distractions. I absolutely love the cute baby panda photos and watching llamas get chased across a highway to the William Tell Overture. This photo:
made me laugh out loud.
So, when mass hysteria is created over a photo of a dress, or a video of a baby animal sneezing gets shared 15 billion times, I am more prone to think our society desperately needs a break from the many things we can’t control.
At the end of the day, it’s nice to have these little distractions in order to enjoy each other and life’s crazy antics. Even if it produces just a smile, or a conversation with someone you normally wouldn’t connect with, it’s probably worthwhile. As long as we don’t abuse the internet by distracting ourselves into denial, or substitute photos and videos of people for actual life-breathing community, we’ll probably be fine as a society.
I’ll probably be the first to admit that I wish others would pay more attention and take more time to become educated on politics and current events. But, while sometimes it worries me to think of the consequences we’ll face for not taking charge of our future, I am more worried what life would be like if we lost our sense of community.
Community is all we have.