The Bad Luck Brian template. Images Source: Know Your Meme.
Imagine if some random photo of you off Facebook or another social networking platform went viral, and for 12-18 months of memelife, you became a world famous archetype.
Have you ever had someone snap a bad photo of you and post it online without asking? Have you posted your high school picture on Classmates.com? Have you posted your baby's photograph on a chat forum? Ever joined a dating site? Put real photos of yourself on Twitter? Then you, too, could stumble upon the nightmare of microfame. And there is no such thing, as one meme subject put it, as a meme support group. A good example: on 23 January 2012, a meme on Reddit started called Bad luck Brian:
IRL, Kyle sports the same dumbass grin that made him famous.Bad Luck Brian is an image macro series featuring a photo of a blonde teenage boy wearing a plaid sweater vest and braces, accompanied by captions that describe a variety of embarrassing and tragic occurrences. ... On April 11th, 2012, a Redditor claiming to be Bad Luck Brian attempted to do an AMA thread in the Ask Me Anything subreddit, but the thread was removed. The moderator who removed the post left a lengthy comment explaining why, which received more than 35,000 downvotes, making it one of the most downvoted comments on Reddit of all time. Redditor coyotecarl came back on May 8th with an AMA thread on the Advice Animals subreddit. The post received 24,722 upvotes and 2017 points overall. ... During the thread, he revealed his name is Kyle and the photo was taken as his ... school photo, but the principal made him take it over again because he was under the impression Kyle was making the face on purpose.
Uproxx posts the best parts of Kyle's questions and answers session on what it's like to become a world famous meme.
Old Timey Bad Luck Brian variation. Image Source: quickmeme.
Image Source: The LOLibrary.
2011-2012 also saw other popular memes turn viral on the Web, like Success Kid, Scumbag Steve and Sheltered College Freshman, who is really Kerin Portillo from Bogotá, Colombia.
Success Kid is actually Sam Griner, who started kindergarten in September 2012. From The FW:
Mashable gives parents advice on what to expect when your child becomes a meme:'Success Kid' is a macro meme which features a picture of a baby with a pumped fist and look of unusual self-satisfaction. Folks started using the photo of 11-month-old Sam Griner — which had been made available on Flickr — as their Myspace avatars around 2008. But it didn’t really hit its stride until 2011 when Reddit turned ‘Success Kid‘ into meme that now has over 66,000 different versions.
There's no parenting textbook that will entirely prepare you to raise a child. So, when your child goes viral on the Internet, even grown adults have no control over what gets shared. How do you protect your kid and remain a good parent?
At the web culture conference ROFLcon, the parents behind Success Kid and David After the Dentist discussed with moderator and Arizona State assistant professor Alice Daer what it's like to raise a child — while managing his brand.
"I knew on the way home that it was a really special picture, and I was excited that I got it," says Laney Griner about the image of her then 11-month-old son, Sammy, holding a clenched fist and wearing a smug grin.
"It was just weird to me; I didn't get it," says Laney. "I felt like maybe I was too old to get the whole meme thing." ... Griner was fortunate that it naturally evolved into Success Kid, but she decided to license the image to Getty to protect herself and Sammy.
Advertising agencies discovered the image on Getty and contacted her. But using Sammy's picture in ads, like Virgin Mobile UK, required several contracts, so Griner removed the image from Getty and licensed it herself.
Success Kid aka Sam Griner. Image Source: The FW.
Another meme is Scumbag Steve:
"Scumbag Steve is an image macro series featuring a kid with a sideways fitted cap standing in a hallway. The overlaid text generally centers around unethical behavior regarding drugs, partying, and other hedonistic behaviors."
In real life, Scumbag Steve is Blake Boston; the meme photo came from MySpace, and was posted by Boston's mother when he was 16:
In case you’ve lived this long without hearing about him, Scumbag Steve is a popular macro meme featuring a young adult wearing a sideways baseball hat who is very sleazy and always up to no good. (Thus his name.) As it turns out, Scumbag Steve is also a real person named Blake Boston, a.k.a “Weezy.” If you didn’t already figure it out by his attire and nickname, he is an aspiring rapper.
True to life: Blake Boston, meme and aspiring rapper. Image Source: The FW.
Boston reflects on life: “I have no regrets in my life …no matter what I do. I can completely fuck up on something and I still don’t regret it. Because at the end of the day, that makes me who I am, so I wouldn’t go back and erase anything, if I were to go back in time.”
Annoying Facebook Girl, original source photo. Image Source: Know Your Meme.
In late 2011, Boston published an open letter of support to a girl whose Facebook photo with her friends went viral as Annoying Facebook Girl:
Dear Annoying Facebook Girl, it’s me Blake. You may know me as Scumbag Steve. Or not, if you’re not on the internet much.
I heard you just found out that your pics been all over the internet. Shocking huh? Google yourself, but have a friend with you for support.
Feeling violated? Don’t. You see, like me, your picture was used as a meme. What the fuck, you may ask, is a meme? Well basically it’s you and others in image macro form, that represent a thought, behavior, style or idea that spreads from person to person within a culture.
Waaah? Let me say it again. It’s one random picture, with various sayings on it, that tells a whole story, in really short form, for the world to see, it gets put on the internet and it spreads. Goes viral, like the worst case of herpes known to man. But before you feel like you’re going to jump, you need to know that it’s going to be OK.
Now don’t have your folks look for a meme support group for you, cuz there isn’t one. We’re out here by ourselves. You may feel hurt and embarrassed that somehow one of your friends or foes took that godawful picture of you (we know you really don’t look like that all the time, right?) and put it where the internet meme makers dwell. 4chan. Don’t go there, especially if your parents are looking.
You see, that pic resonated with people. It spoke of a crazy excited girl telling Facebook friends inane shit. It could have been any girl, there’s a million pics just like yours on Facebook. But it happened to be yours.
Now, if you do see a pic of me, try not to go all wifey on me but (scumbag joke, these memes can get inside your head) that too was a pic of me a little younger, looking like a scumbag. Let’s face it. The pics look pretty true to form.
But here’s what I need you to know. When you go off to college, and you’re walking down the hall and a group of kids see you and scream, “Oh my god it’s Annoying Facebook Girl,” don’t cry. You see. Some people can’t distinguish the internet from real life. There are people who refuse to believe my name isn’t Steve and that I am not really the scumbag (well not all the time, that is). Just remember who you are. And that you know you’re a decent kid.
You’re going to be in shock for a while, when you see what people have written. But the most important and self-preserving thing you can do is know that it’s not you. You can’t take this personally. I’ll say that again, you can’t take this personally. Hell if I did… well let’s not go there.
The part that will suck though is that there will always be those people that somehow think YOU did this, that you made the meme, and that you could stop it if you wanted to. That you have some control over it. You don’t. The internet birthed you and they’ll decide when you (the meme) will die.
There will also be those people who assuage their guilt by telling you how great it is, how lucky you are to be a meme. Just smile. What they are really saying is, thank god it wasn’t me.
So search Annoying Facebook Girl on Google images, pull up a chair with a group of your friends and laugh your fucking ass off. Cuz you know who you are and how strong you are and that, that picture has nothing to do with what makes you, you… Hopefully you’ll get to where I am, feeling like some memes are hysterical. But that takes time. I’m here if you need me. I’m sorry you’re hurting,
-- Blake, a.k.a. Scumbag Steve
Annoying Facebook Girl meme template via Know Your Meme.
Facebook discussion as Annoying Facebook Girl discovers she has become a Web meme, via Know Your Meme.
Image Source: Know Your Meme.
Annoying Facebook Girl looked like she needed the advice, actually, because she did not know what had happened to her photograph or why. Nor did she know what a meme was. Or did she? Know Your Meme:
Annoying Facebook Girl is an advice animal image macro series featuring a photo of a teenage girl rolling her eyes with her mouth agape, accompanied by a blue and white color wheel background. The overlaid text typically depicts vapid status updates, attention whoring and generally irritating Facebook activity.
The stereotype of obnoxious Facebook users has been explored through precedent advice animal characters, most notably Social Networking Dolphin. The character of “Annoying Facebook Girl” also shares some similarities with Musically Oblivious 8th Grader.
On December 20th, 2011, a thread was posted by Redditor boyann to the /r/funny subreddit titled “I’m currently talking to somebody on Facebook who is best friends with the cover girl for the ‘Annoying Facebook Girl’ meme. She couldn’t be more confused,” containing screenshots of a Facebook page with the original Annoying Facebook Girl photo as well as a conversation with someone described as her “best friend.”
The same day, The Daily Dot published an article titled “Annoying Facebook Girl or innocent Internet victim?” in reference to Redditor boyann’s thread. Shortly after, Redditor average_fan replied to the thread with a claim that the post was a hoax after investigating Megan’s Facebook profile, asserting that the photos were uploaded a week ago and that Jess’s account was created earlier that month. The screenshots were soon taken down and the post deemed a fake.
In February 2012, several users of the Eastern Illinois University Facebook Meme Page commented on an Annoying Facebook Girl image stating that they knew the girl in the photograph. One of the users linked to photos of herself with the girl in the image macro but they have since been removed.
Know Your Meme: "On March 31st, 2012, computer programmer Will King took photographs of runners at the annual Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, South Carolina. King uploaded a set of almost 100 photos to Flickr and Facebook, where one of his friends dubbed the man 'Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.'"
The Ridiculously Photogenic Guy meme. Images Source: Know Your Meme.
For other memes, some whose private identities are established, some not, see Ridiculously Photogenic Guy (aka Zeddie Little); Good Guy Greg; Overly Attached Girlfriend (aka Laina Walker); Successful Black Man; PTSD Clarinet Boy; and High Expectations Asian Father (aka South Korean actor Jeon Mu-Song).
For my earlier posts on the separate lives our Web personalities lead, go here and here.
Go here for a list of Internet phenomena.