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Right Before the End of the Roman Empire the Citizens of Rome Had a Lengthy Debate Over the Color of a Toga

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Sarah Miller writes for The New Yorker, The Hairpin and other publications

If you are talking or thinking or anythinging about that dress, stop it now. Because all the scientists who have been busy for the last 36 hours telling us about color theory and the size of the lens and how it gets bigger when you get older and blue lights and how one day someone shined a light on some scientist’s Volkswagen and he could have sworn it was actually the Battleship Potemkin are today busy coming up with a new theory about #thedress. This theory is that arguing about what color a dress is will make your brain atrophy.

It will also cause you to be so overstimulated that you will drink three martinis tonight instead of two and black out, and the last thing you will remember is showing someone a picture of the blue and black and the white and gold llamas, which is, incidentally, the last comment that should have been made about that dress. For future reference, when a fellow American Photoshops not one but two llamas into a different color it means a conversation has ended. (One llama means things are winding down.)

I have been annoyed before by technology naysayers who have bravely stepped forward and declared that Twitter is bad and does not constitute real engagement and that we should all be sitting around drinking Nescafe and talking about Norman Rush. But the dress to me actually seems like something that might give those kinds of people ammunition, or, put more simply, it may be a new frontier in stupid.

Would I be elitist in assuming that at least most of us attended 6th grade? And we do remember discussing things like color blindness and perception and how different people saw different things? Yes, I am aware some of the theories that were offered up yesterday were slightly different, but they were variations on that theme. And while that was one of the more interesting days of 6th grade, I don’t know that I could maintain that fascination for a lifetime. #Dressgate proves that I am alone there.

Millions and millions of people, who I am pretty sure have at some point had some conversation about how different people see different things differently, seemed like they were learning this for the very first time. And since they presumably weren’t, well, it kind of made me sad.

I got sad in three stages.

The first came when I got the sense that people had filled up their brains with so much stupid internet stuff (prior to the dresses, prior even to the llamas) that they’d forgotten all the simple things they learned in elementary school.

And then, the sadness intensified when it dawned on me that some people truly had never actually learned this stuff in elementary school because they were from a generation that doesn’t learn anything in school anymore because when their teachers tell their parents that they don’t pay attention their parents tell the teachers to shut up or they’ll get them fired.

And the sadness really solidified when I realized that the people who probably did understand why the dresses appeared to be different colors were only freaking out about it because they’d been triggered—“have a sense of wonder about this now!”—or because they thought appearing to have no conception of basic science might make them feel younger or more attractive.

I’m not going to sit here and judge you because yesterday ISIS destroyed priceless art and you were sitting around screaming “BLUE BLACK!” or “WHITE GOLD!” In everyone’s defense, perhaps this debate was leapt into with such eagerness because it was less emotionally charged than the one about whether ISIS is killing lots of people because they’re Muslim or just because they love killing people or both, or whether Patricia Arquette is a terrible person because she didn’t have a P.R. firm write her Oscar speech. That said, if you’re composing a tweet or a Facebook update about #dressgate maybe you should pick up a basic science text because next week everyone on Twitter might “discover” that the dinosaurs are extinct and you might want to prepare to be a voice of reason.

If you are, however, composing a meme about #dressgate that you think may actually turn out to be funny, could please mail it to me? I’m staying off social media until the #dressgate smoke clears, but I never like to miss the really quality memes.

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