The Effects of The Dress

The Internet was captivated last night.

Not by a world-moving event, or a new invention, or a speech, or any sort of breaking news.

In fact, all it took to get millions of ‘net users talking was a dress. One that you’ve surely seen by now (the thing is gold and white, damn it).

The original photo was posted on Tumblr with a caption that read, “Guys please help me – is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the f**k out.”

The rest of the Internet collectively did the same. People all over the world were arguing about whether the dress was blue and black or white and gold, and some people even reported seeing colors like brown, turquoise and red.

For a while, it seemed like every other tweet on my timeline was about this dress (or those crazy llamas). Before long, outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post began posting stories about the dichotomous dress. Even KimYe weighed in (gotta admit, I’m a little disappointed Kim saw gold and white…but alas)!

The dress was everywhere, and everyone and their mother was talking about it. BuzzFeed posted an article about it on Friday night, and in just over 24 hours, the post has garnered more than 31 million views.

On Friday, BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen wrote on the website’s tech blog about the hours after the article about the dress was published.  In the hours following the publishing of the article, BuzzFeed was forced to add 40 percent server capacity to handle the massive influx of traffic it generated. In less than three hours, the post had already set a BuzzFeed record with 431,000 active users on the site. That number continued to climb until it reached 673,000.

BuzzFeed had also prepared for the spike in traffic by investing in infrastructure and running “drills.” All of BuzzFeed’s posts about the dress were viewed a combined 41 million times from every country and in five different languages.

The insanity caused by the dress shows how easily and quickly something can become viral these days. The image of the dress was divisive, silly, visual and shareable – all qualities that can make anything on the Internet spread like wildfire.

Today, in the world of 140-character tweets and texting via emojis, bite-sized content is what people love to consume. The fact that “the dress” was an image that was highly divisive and very easy to share is what made it one of the most sensational phenomena in viral internet history.

While viral content is all well and good, that still doesn’t explain the bigger issue at hand here. How/why on earth are people seeing it in different colors?? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is one we may not be getting anytime soon.

“Why is this happening? I don’t know,” said Dr. Jay Neitz, PhD, a color vision researcher at the University of Washington in an interview with Vice. “This is one of the most fascinating color vision things I’ve seen in a long time.

I’m going to spend the rest of my life working on this,” he told me. “I thought I was going to cure blindness, but now I guess I’ll do this.”

I’m chalking it up to witchcraft.


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