Opinion, Staff Editorial

Dress dilemma tells greater social truths

While unsuspecting students were preparing for midterms this past week, an inconspicuous Instagram picture shook the Internet with unprecedented force.

One by one, and then by the hordes; friends, family members and celebrities were called to weigh in on the color of what has become known as #thedress. At the time this editorial was written, BuzzFeed’s poll of the dress color garnered over 3.4 million votes, with 68 percent in favor of white and gold.

The ferocity of the whispered arguments overheard in the library and in the dorms and the number of friendships tested by the debate are testaments to #thedress’s potency in capturing public attention.

Many social media accounts cleverly used the issue to improve relatability and increase traffic. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) used the dress to send a message about tolerating different perspectives. News outlets like USAToday and CNN  also jumped on the bandwagon. BuzzFeed alone featured 24 individual posts about #thedress.

At the same time, the amount of attention #thedress is drawing compared to the attention the public gives to seemingly more important social and political debates can be a bit disconcerting.

At first glance, it is easy to blame our increasing fascination with the superficial, the inconsequential. However, the formula behind #thedress’s success may just boil down to timeless aspects of human nature and how that nature manifests within these new, rapid avenues of communication.

Like any other social media phenomenon, a bit of pure luck is behind #thedress’s popularity – a Tumblr post gained enough traction to push the debate into the general public spotlight.

Yet, several other elements give #thedress momentum: intrigue, relatability and simplicity.

#Thedress debate is inherently interesting. The mystery behind two completely different perceptions of a seemingly simple picture hooked our curiosity, a curiosity strong enough to compel us to ask around for confirmations and explanations.

As more people chime in, the divisive issue at the same time becomes a unifying one; as people shared their perplexion, #thedress became a relatable experience for everyone.

It is also a debate that is clear-cut and simple to understand: does the dress in the photo look white and gold or black and blue? The simplicity makes the argument accessible to anyone with full-color vision and access to the Internet. It doesn’t require esoteric understanding or nuance to express one’s opinion.

More importantly, the issue is lighthearted, and expressing one’s opinion avoids stepping on any toes, spats among friends aside. As a result, the public is more comfortable with discussing #thedress than with having difficult conversations about complicated, and sometimes deeply personal, issues – whether it be developments within ISIS, Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, or U.S. gun control laws.

The impact social media has on opening up forums for debate is empowering and democratic; more voices are invited to participate in the conversation around prominent issues. #Thedress provides an interesting case study of a somewhat inconsequential issue that had a widespread effect on the public.

However, the information overload resulting from these new communication platforms can also be a bane to understanding current events.

When consumers naturally turn their attention towards easily digestible issues rather than complex, yet significant, problems, the news media finds themselves at odds in terms of what they can sacrifice for the sake of accessibility.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

Featured image courtesy Swiked via Tumblr.

March 1, 2015

Reporters

Editorial Board

The Miami Hurricane


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Three of four University of Miami scholarship quarterbacks were suspended at various times this seas ...

While the University of Miami offense has struggled mightily this season, its defense has been stell ...

The Pittsburgh Panthers boast one of the best rushing offenses in the country. On Saturday, the Miam ...

After watching several juniors turn pro and then go late in the draft or not at all in recent years, ...

A six-pack of Canes notes on a Monday: ▪ If you ever wondered what the Hurricanes would look like if ...

Erin Kobetz, director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Firefighter Cancer Initiative, disc ...

Kristiana Yao, who graduated summa cum laude in May, said she was “still in shock” after finding out ...

UM Libraries is presenting an extraordinary exhibit that immerses the audience in an emotional journ ...

A UM researcher is helping to lead a study on how smoke interacts with clouds and its impact on the ...

People are bombarded with news and information these days, providing opportunities for discourse tha ...

The Miami women's basketball team jumped two spots to No. 22 nationally in the first in-season ...

The Canes got back to their winning ways with an impressive 38-14 victory at Virginia Tech. ...

The No. 24 Miami women's basketball team dropped a 75-52 decision Sunday at Iowa State in the P ...

20-point performances from Chris Lykes and DJ Vasiljevic led Miami past Bethune-Cookman. ...

The University of Miami volleyball team forced No. 10 Pitt to five sets in a thrilling match on Seni ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.