Not Everything is Black and White

When I saw the picture of that dress for the first time, I thought:

Oh, that’s obviously [so] and [so].

I tend to overanalyze situations. It’s the way I react. If I don’t overreact to something, then I worry I’m underreacting, and I overreact to that.

I know, I just brought self-analysis to another level.

So, I’ve been trying something else recently. It’s a new form of reacting for me, perhaps I should say a lack of reaction altogether — I call it listening. Rather than reacting to the first few words somebody says or writes, I reserve my judgment. Why not hear a person out completely before I reach a verdict? Because believe me, when my gavel comes down, it comes down with gravity.

Everything nowadays seems to be black and white. Many of us fail — or refuse — to recognize that there is a gray area that exists with almost everything. For example, we sometimes assume things about people based on where they went to school and how long it took them to graduate. I know I am guilty of this.

I am guilty of judging strangers without a true basis for my assumptions. I am guilty of judging people I know without trying to see situations from their perspectives. I am guilty of believing my personal experiences qualify me to give advice to another individual, when in reality I have no clue what that person is actually going through.

Past experiences aren’t applicable to everyone; to assume so would be lazy. It’s lazy thinking, and lazy thinking translates into lazy writing.

This lack of understanding is present virtually everywhere. I see plenty of online articles every day proclaiming the “best” and “worst” of something. I come across so many journalists (“journalists”?) who assume they know better just because Elite Daily or BuzzFeed or Gawker is featuring their minimally researched and poorly written articles. Don’t accept everything you read as fact, and be sure to consult multiple sources before sharing a news story. Remember that in modern journalism, objectivity has gone by the wayside. Rumors and the articles that spawn them spread virally because misinformation is a virus.

I’m not claiming to have the cure for it, though. I said above that “past experiences aren’t applicable to everyone,” yet the tagline of this publication is Oddly specific. Universally applicable. Is it shortsighted to claim that our articles and stories are “universally applicable”? Of course it is. Nothing Jenna and I write can apply to every reader. But that’s ultimately our goal, and using it as our tagline reminds us to strive for that universal appeal when we’re writing, to refrain from alienating any particular type of person. (Also, it’s catchy so we’re keeping it.)

Have you ever been 100% sure you were right about something, only to have the script flipped on you and find out you were completely wrong?
Photo/Caitlin McNeill

Last week, we witnessed a phenomenon that spread like wildfire across social media platforms — and it all started with a dress. The colors of a dress don’t seem like a topic that would incite a debate; yet friends, couples, and coworkers are still arguing about the photo.

So, what I want to do right now is urge any individuals who assume they know better to reconsider. If you are a boss about to fire an employee, a parent about to teach your child a lesson, a journalist about to break big news, or just someone about to share an uninformed opinion — I beg you to think twice before you open your mouth or hit PUBLISH.

I want to kick down this pedestal that some people seem to have themselves on, as if age or experience makes them impervious to human error.

I encourage everyone reading this to call people on their bullshit, to let others know when they’re being condescending or narrow-minded or just plain ignorant. Ignorance shouldn’t be pitied; it should be condemned. It’s 2015, and basically everybody we talk to regularly has access to information and news. So, ignorance is not a failure to recognize the gray areas of issues — it’s a blatant refusal to admit they exist.

I also encourage everyone reading this to call yourselves on your own bullshit. If you catch yourself telling others what they should have done, remember that hindsight is 20/20. We can all get better at this. We can also stop being so judgmental of strangers. We may think we know what a stranger is thinking or what that person should do in a situation — that there’s no gray area. But not every issue is so black and white.

If life were that simple, I’d be better at it. I’d be less skeptical, and I sure as hell wouldn’t overanalyze things as often as I do now. I would pick a side and stay there.

But that isn’t the world in which we live. We have the privilege of examining all sides of an issue and hopping the fence as many times as we want. We have an endless stream of information literally at our fingertips, which allows us to educate ourselves before weighing in — or so I would hope.

I’d rather be painfully aware than willfully ignorant. And I’d rather be honest than hypocritical.

Now, this is all coming from someone who sees the infamous dress as white and gold… Maybe I was never overreacting at all.


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