A video posted by TikTok user @ectupper shows a person swinging in a snow-covered playground sandwiched between a building and the videographer. It’s an innocent enough scene until you consider the direction this person is swinging. Is he pumping his legs toward the building or away from it? Is he facing the camera or the building?
With more than 16.4 million views at the time of publication, those very questions surrounding the video has the internet up in arms.
"I'm losing my mind can someone tell me which way he's facing," said Twitter user @esnycuddles, who reposted the video on December 21 and has since had more than 28,000 retweets and 134,000 likes.
Others say they can see it "both ways". Twitter user @sara_nromero posted edited screenshots of the video that illustrates a perspective showing how the person could be swinging forward, as well as arrows illuminating how he may be swinging with his back to the camera. The second image shows the person above the line of the swing bars, which the poster argues proves the person is swinging toward the camera.
Some users write that they are actually getting into fights with their family members over the video.
Others are very certain that their viewpoint is the correct one.
Not only are optical illusions a divisive topic at the dinner table, but they can help us to understand how our brains interpret the environment around us. Take the "perpetual diamond", for example. The illusion uses a stationary diamond with changing contrasting edges that are animated to trick a viewer into believing that the object is actually moving around on the screen. How a person interprets this illusion lends a great deal of information about our perception of "spatial contrast, temporal contrast, contrast gain, and color contrast.”
A similar illusion concocted by Yale University researchers employed two little dots – one red and the other blue – that appear to move around on a map of Tokyo. At first, it appears that the red dot is chasing the blue, but 30 seconds into the video, the blue dot seemingly chases the red. It's a reminder of just how unreliable our perception can be. The red dot is actually stationary as the blue dot moves around in a repeating pattern. It's the moving map that tricks our brain into thinking the two are "chasing" each other.
So, is the person in the swinging video moving toward or away from the camera? We're not ones to let our preconceived notions get in the way of fair reporting. IFLScience reached out to the original poster @ectupper to ask whether the person is actually swinging toward or away from the camera, but have not received a response at the time of publication.