Yes, I am one of those people who think that we should pay more attention to important issues, and less attention to the frivolous and non-consequential. Inattention and ignorance of important problems in the world is a serious issue, but that’s not what this article is about.
Sure, people could be talking about the impact of their own carbon footprint, or discussing the horrendous conditions in Palestine. Instead, they are talking about a dress. Maybe it’s an interesting topic, maybe it’s just a brief diversion from heavy issues, or maybe they are shallow. But, there’s more to it than that, because people are doing more than just talking about it. They are arguing about it.
The internet is full of some version of, “The dress is obviously (insert color of choice) and people who see (other color) are wrong.” Often, such statements are not worded nearly so politely, even indulging in cutting insults about the people in the other color camp. It has sparked heated debates and worse.
This demonstrates a couple of common flaws in human nature. First, it takes the issue of shallowness to a whole new level. Okay, maybe there are good reasons to spend a little of your attention on a dress. And it’s not harmful to spend a lot of your attention of a dress. But, arguing about it? Getting angry? Resorting to name-calling of good friends or perfect strangers? It’s just a dress, and it’s just a debate about the color. Is it really important enough to justify such emotions and aggression, especially among some people who don’t get nearly as upset about stories of death and destruction?
Perhaps an even more important question is how, and why, such a thing could even become a topic of argument.
If two people see something differently, one of them must be wrong. More specifically, if someone sees something differently than you, they must be wrong (because, of course, the way you see it is right). These basic assumptions are at the heart of the tsunami of arguments, insults, and aggressive comments that have flooded the internet.
Of course, not everyone posting about the dress is arguing. Some color experts, graphic designers, doctors, scientists, and other people merely find the topic interesting. There are many theories of what could make the same image appear different colors to different people. They are discussing ideas about age, eye health, computer monitors, color perception, and more. It has prompted some to learn more about their own vision, and try to understand why others see differently. These people are learning, contemplating, expanding their minds, because they accept the fact that two people can see the same thing differently. But, there are not enough of those people, and the discussions are dominated by those who simply assume everyone must see things the same.
It’s not about a dress. It’s about the ability to accept other possibilities, other perspectives, the ability to comprehend and embrace the fact that people can see things differently. If two people see something differently, one of them must be wrong. More specifically, if someone sees something differently than you, they must be wrong (because, of course, the way you see it is right). All too often, these same assumptions are applied to topics far more serious than a dress. In fact, some people live by them.
This may seem impossible to some, and obvious to others, but it’s true: Someone else can perceive the same thing in a very different way than you – and it doesn’t always mean they are lying, stupid, ignorant, or wrong. Sometimes it just means their perspective, their reality, the angle they see something from is different. And different is okay. Sometimes there is more than one right answer, and sometimes even the right answer can be wrong when viewed from a different angle. Your situation, conditions, perceptions, illusions, knowledge, assumptions, and beliefs shape your reality. But, your reality does not, can not, and should not shape anyone else’s reality.
When people reject anything that does fit with their own fixed vision of the world, they generate anger, arguments, hate, and sometimes even violence. And, their world remains the same, just a few shades darker for the negativity they injected. When people are open to new ideas and perspectives, they have the opportunity to learn and grow. They allow their perception of reality to evolve and expand, incorporation the previously unknown. Their lives become richer and their vision becomes more accurate, because they no longer need blinders to filter out the “unacceptable.” They tend to engage in discussions, exchanges of information that benefit others as well as themselves. And, they seem to understand that it’s okay if someone else sees a different color.