#THEDRESS

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Thursday evening I logged onto Twitter as I sometimes do, trying to figure out what the world was up to–and boy did I ever. Most of my feed was filled with images and mentions of a dress and sets of colors: blue and black and white and gold. Confused, I knew I quickly needed to jump aboard this dress train before it passed me by. The internet is a quick moving hive of people where things go from a thing to viral to post-viral to think pieces about said thing to exaggerated eye rolls to Buzzfeed listicles about the best reactions to blank in a matter of hours.

I scrolled and scrolled noting every mention of the dress–something like 75% of all of my Twitter feed activity. I scrolled three hours back into my feed before I started seeing less and less mentions of the dress, yes, the internet talked about the dress for over three hours straight.

And let me tell you, I think this is marvelous.

I am on board with #thedress craze–let it be known.

If there ever was a moment to truly capture the current generation, how it reacts, and the spirit of the internet age it has to be #thedress. Something minor, a photo of a dress, was spread around so much that it got everybody in the world talking about it! Kim Kardashian tried to break the internet by doing something (quite literally) the opposite of #thedress and it failed at least in comparison to this white and gold (no BLUE AND BLACK!) #thedress.

Within hours everybody knew about it, articles were published, and people had faux-arguments over its colors with hashtags galore representing the divide between those who saw it one way or another.

Even though it was a divisive issue–the whole thing started by people arguing over its color–in a way it united us in a sort of silliness, a debate that didn’t really matter that in the morning everyone could laugh off. It was like a large comment board where in the end there were no racist comments, death threats, or cyber bullying. It captured all of the potential of the internet, where anonymity doesn’t reveal the depravity of humanity, instead it offered us its best version possible.

When I first saw #thedress I had to do research to make sure I wasn’t being trolled. I saw the dress as white and gold and like many others had to figure out if the blue/black-ers were all making it up or what exactly was happening. It did seem to be that people were being honest in seeing the dress a different color.

I reloaded Twitter and the dress had changed colors to blue and black. I was taken aback, but wondered whether someone had uploaded the picture in blue and black. I scrolled and found other pictures I knew I had seen before, they were also blue and black.

I sat there a little stunned. Okay, what do I do with this? This seems to be real and I don’t have an answer as to what is happening.

How often does something viral fill you with this feeling?

Rebecca Black’s “Friday” lead people to write hateful messages to a 16 year old girl.

Charlie Bit Me was comical, but pretty straight forward.

“Gangnam Style” was just ridiculous.

But this was truly mind-boggling in a kind of wondrous way.

I would later discover the real reason–a scientific one based in the ways our eyes perceive color–thanks to a friend who shared the answer with me. I think this is even more thrilling, the internet freaked out about something because of SCIENCE! That’s amazing!

The whole thing, even if it had not blown up our social media feeds, is spectacular on its own, taking something that we rely on to shape our sense of the world–sight–and making it utterly confusing and subjective. In a moment the way that we see something can completely change…

I love that the internet freaked out over this, I love that everyone talked about it–jokingly prodding one another over what color it was, and I love that it was completely legitimate. This is the sort of thing that the people of the future who make their own Mad Men about us will cover in an episode, drawing complex meaning from it and portraying us in our strange state of internet.

For a few moments this weekend, the internet went crazy over a #thedress and it was wonderful.

NOTE: I know that someone is bound to link to people talking to each other in abhorrent ways about this, showing that no the internet did not really get along over this–I accept it, after all this is the internet.

Weekly Thoughts 14

The final two lists (best films and albums) will be released later this week, but for now the continuation of my weekly thoughts.

Internet as a Human Right

A few weeks back (before the endlessness of holidays and the best of mania took a hold of my life) I wrote about my experience with Time Warner Cable and the weird sort of power that we may now have as consumers and internet users. I promised to write more about that and I plan on doing so now, but first I wanted to give an update to that story.

While I was at McDonald’s, using internet for the cost of a burger and a drink (large, because all their drinks are the same price!), I chatted with a representative who kindly told me I should be able to change my appointment and even gave me a number I could use to get an earlier one. When I called their helpline an automated machine told me that there were several appointments available days before the one they had previously told me. So in the end, TWC helped me out, but only in the light of unnecessary incompetence.

I digress. During my week and a half no internet time I was forced to spend a lot of time in public places using Wi-Fi from places like Starbucks and McDonald’s. The crowds occupying these places were often college students, but there would also be groups of people who would spend hours there that seemed to be homeless. This got me thinking about the ways internet has become so prevalent in our lives and what happens when we no longer have access to it.

For me personally every day life became a hassle, not only was it much more boring, but tasks that I needed to complete after having just moved became difficult if not impossible. Figuring out who I needed to call and what I needed to do was exponentially harder without the assistance of the internet. Now I understand that plenty of people get by without the internet on a daily basis and don’t use Google as a crutch to solve their every problem like I have, but this is starting to become a rarity and I am becoming the norm.

A few years back I read an argument that access to free or cheap Wi-Fi should be considered a human right. In light of my experiences I am wondering if this is not correct and if indeed policies should be put into place to allow people access to good internet use. Now obviously policy is an ever complex thing and throwing together something like this would be complicated; not to mention the businesses would have a fit. But if people are becoming like me and inevitably these people become poor or homeless and no longer have access to internet, their disadvantage will increase, perhaps even to a point where there is no coming back.

Internet allows access to information and it does so easily. Having easier access to information allows one to get things done quicker and when time is freed up it offers more potential for other beneficial tasks, whether that be working more, taking care of kids, or simply finding time to rest. Without internet things become elongated and more difficult to do. If somebody is stressing out because they’ve just been fired from their job and are trying to find work, but can no longer afford internet and have to seek out job through more difficult avenues, they are being put at a bigger disadvantage than another person looking for a job with internet. This will only increase as the web is more and more relied on for more things.

There are places where Wi-Fi is accessible for free or low costs. The public library is a great place, one where I would take refugees to get set up and try to figure out how they were going to make it in America. I have to say, the computers at the library are the absolute worst. They are impossibly slow and so inept that it is almost not worth it to use them at all. Other public areas where you pay for food to get Wi-Fi are nice, though certainly more difficult than home use (no surprise there). All these are lacking.

Getting by in this world is going to require some sort of internet functionality and those who go without will be just as bad off as those without residences or health services. There is no easy way to solve this and proposing government paid internet services is admittedly silly sounding at this point, but I think this is a conversation we need to start pondering and taking seriously. Maybe city-wide Wi-Fi will be the first to come, giving people who can find a way to use it the ability to do so, even though it will assuredly be slower than slow. Maybe charities can begin to offer free or cheap internet cafes that offer assistance in finding needed services. These sorts of creative solutions should begin to be brainstormed now before the problem hits full fledged and we have large groups of people with no idea how to live without the internet, yet have no capacity to use it.

Weekly Thoughts 13

I am writing this right now from a McDonald’s.

Yes, I recently moved which put me in a position of having no internet and while McDonald’s is certainly not known for its Wi-Fi game, it beats the monotony of a daily appearance at Starbucks. I want to talk more about this internet-less experience, but you will have to wait next week for that– today, a complaint.

Last Wednesday I called in order to have my internet transferred, they told me that on Saturday between four and five they would come to do it. By 5:15 on Saturday we hadn’t heard anything so we called again, made sure they had our numbers right and soon after that they came and tried to install it.

Unfortunately this didn’t work because some sort of cable wasn’t working and they told us that they would have to come back some time on Monday.

Monday came around and we didn’t hear anything from them. The next day we called again and they said that they had come and fixed it and called us but nobody answered. Turns out that they called an old phone number, which we had just made sure they wouldn’t use the previous Saturday. They told us somebody would call us within an hour to try to schedule a time. No call ever came.

The next day we called again to see what was happening, this time they told us we could only schedule an appointment for the following Tuesday–6 days later and 13 days after our original call to them.

This enraged me a little bit, I’m not gonna lie. It feels like pretty poor customer service and mishandling people who rely on a service quite a bit and are willing to pay (probably too much) to have it. Right now we are not paying anything, just waiting to give away our money.

This service provider is named Time Warner Cable by the way–I wanted to make sure you knew that. Obviously this story is not the most exciting, I’m sure some readers will love graveling against a big corporation, because they are fun to gravel against, but ultimately this is an experiment of sorts.

Time Warner provides support in two main ways: through their call-in system (which we’ve been using) and an online chat. There isn’t really any way to email them complaints and for timid phone talkers like myself I will never sound enraged enough on a telephone to make any real change happen. The chat is difficult to use, especially to explain this problem using only an iPhone.

The other day though, I noticed something very interesting. Frustrated at a lack of internet and general enthusiasm to fix my problem on Time Warner’s behalf, I sent out a sarcastic tweet. Within minutes a Time Warner Help account tweeted back at me, asking me about my problem and what they can do. I never responded, because my phone does not really work well in sending replies, only in sending out Tweets. But I had gotten someone’s attention.

So perhaps detailing out my problems and the ways in which Time Warner Cable has failed on the internet, using social media, and blogs is the best way to make change happen. These brands are working very hard to keep their images clean. Like how advertising has crept slyly into our feeds maybe we too have the power to affect corporations by what we say about them online. After all they pay good money to be featured however slightly on our screens, this shows that these platforms have a perceived sense of power and influence at least to marketing types. Maybe the criticism given to the slacktivist is a little unwarranted after all.

So Time Warner Cable, if you’re out there, I don’t want to trash your brand, I really don’t, but let’s see what happens.

And you, my internet readers and users of the web, this medium is the future. It is the place where everything happens and where everybody is fighting for their corner; their place to commodify. In its ridiculousness this gives you power, so use the internet how you will.