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Chick Wit: What an Internet fracas over a dress can teach us

The Internet exploded recently over a dress, and my first thought was, who cares? Until I figured out that I did, very much.

The Internet exploded recently over a dress, and my first thought was, who cares?

Until I figured out that I did, very much.

We begin sometime last week, when somebody on the Internet circulated a photo of a cocktail dress with horizontal stripes. The caption to the dress photo asked, "What color is this dress?"

I thought they were kidding, because the stripes were obviously black and blue.

So what?

I didn't really get it, and I certainly didn't share it, because it wasn't very interesting. On the Internet, I only share really interesting things like adorable pictures of kittens and adorable pictures of puppies. On occasion, I share adorable pictures of baby otters and baby squirrels and, occasionally, a baby monkey.

If you're 2 months old and covered with fur, I'm your girl.

The only person I share anything with on the Internet is Daughter Francesca, and she shares with me, too. Whether by nature or nurture, her tastes are similar, and so we often generate an electronic stream of adorable baby animals, crossing each other in e-mail, undoubtedly colliding in the ether, but none of them hurting each other, because they're cute and cuddly and soft.

I didn't share the dress with her because I didn't care.

Then I noticed online, specifically on Facebook and Twitter, that not everybody saw the dress as black and blue. Some people thought it was white and gold. At first I thought they were kidding, so I went to look at the picture again, and oddly enough, the dress started looking white and gold to me.

Which was scary.

I didn't understand, and I like to understand, so then I started clicking on the articles about why we were all seeing the dress in different colors, and the articles explained something about rods and cones in the eye, and I got the gist, which was that everybody's eyes are different.

But then I started to notice online that people were taking sides. The people who saw the white-and-gold dress started finding each other online, and the people who saw the blue-and-black dress got together, and they formed teams, since they already had team colors.

And then, as the Internet would have it, they started yelling at each other, online. The white-and-gold people thought the blue-and-black people were wrong. The blue-and-black people thought the white-and-gold people were wrong. Then there was a third group who thought that this was too much yelling over a dress and it was really boring and it didn't make any sense.

I confess that I was in the last group.

I saw both colors, so I didn't like either team.

Plus, I had better things to do in general.

Like my job.

I'm supposed to be in front of a computer writing a book, making my quota of 2,000 words a day, and I'm happiest when I do that and don't find myself drawn into Internet feuds over clothes.

Then somebody online said that we should stop fighting about the dress because we all had more important things to worry about in the world.

I nodded yes.

Then I realized I was wrong.

The way everybody reacted to the dress is exactly what we should be worrying about, in the world. In fact, it mirrors everything we're worried about in the world.

We tend to group around into teams over shared beliefs. I think that's part of a human need to belong, and that can be a wonderful thing. Nothing feels better than sitting in a cheering section where everybody's wearing the same color jersey.

We are the champions, my friend!

But sometimes, we think that if the other team doesn't see things our way, the other team is wrong.

We forget that the difference in perspective is simply a difference, and not all differences are wrong.

Everybody's moral rods and cones are individual, and we will always see the world in different ways.

The important thing is to respect the views of others, even when we secretly think they have no idea what the hell they're talking about, or are completely and obviously wrong, or might even be out of their minds, because the facts are so clear to anyone with half a brain.

It's a lot to learn from a dress.

Imagine what shoes have to teach us.