In 2015 'going viral' is no longer an organic, semi-accidental and unpredictable phenomenon that blesses a few pieces of content. It is a formula, calculated and monetized and repeatable and applied to thousands of photos, videos and events every day.
It's got to the point where only viral will do, with anything not receiving shares in the thousands deemed a failure.
But something set 'What Colors Are This Dress?' (21 million views at the time of writing) apart from the others.
It has all the hallmarks of a big hitter. It provokes debate. It's something everyone can have a view on. It's about science and the subjectivity of how we see the world. It's really dumb.
But something else is at work here – it's the moment the internet reached self-parody.
A crazy optical illusion might have been enough to drive five million views, but its ubiquity was due to the discussion surrounding it, and the discussion of the discussion.
"This dress is tearing my family apart", "This dress is ruining my life" people tweeted, aware of the absurdity of the talking point and delighting in its mundaneness.
1/4 These aren't moving either
The effect comes from much the same place
2/4 And neither is this
Yep, this is also a still image
3/4 These circles aren't moving
The trick comes from the way that our brains scan images over and over
4/4 There's only two colours in this picture
The effect comes from the way that the brain receives different parts of the image at different times
It feels like a milestone of internet culture, and is not to be underestimated:
Seriously though, the traffic this dress is generating is no fucking joke. This is the Viral Singularity.— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) February 27, 2015
The comparison bears out. Joseph Carvalko said that at the point when AI outstrips humanity (the technological singularity) events will be "unpredictable, unfavorable, or even unfathomable".
'Dressgate' is certainly all three, entirely random, certainly unfavourable as a trend in online journalism and unfathomable in the mock hyperbole surrounding it.
Zimmerman, a viral meme expert (the fact that's a thing speaks volumes) elaborated to Vice: "Social networks have conditioned us to trade only in things that are legal tender in the attention economy. And the attention economy is currently undergoing its Great Depression."
Fortunately the dress debate will have devoured itself by lunchtime, such is the social media Ouroboros, but by then three times the population of Greece will have wasted their time on the unremarkable dress.
Said the guy writing a think piece about it.Reuse content