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International Cringe: How I went slightly viral on accident

3 min read

About eight years ago my BYU-Hawaii friends introduced me to a fairly benign Canadian humor site called Tickld. It was an addictive meme trap with an even balance of normie and edgy content, filling the void left by picking the losing team of the Digg vs Reddit war. I was quickly hooked and even altered the No Avatar default picture from the site to be my Steam account picture.


On a whim I ended up purchasing some meme apparel and had the classic Jazzy 90s Men's T-Shirt shipped to me. After looking around stores for two weeks I was finally able to find the cups with the matching style and so in victory I posted the picture to Tickld with the caption “The stars have aligned to make this happen.” It quickly made the front page of the site and was apparently appealing enough for some enterprising individual to snag the image and cheesy caption. It was posted to Reddit three different times and eventually made it to the top of r/pics.



By the time it got to the front page of Reddit one of my friends had messaged me, asking why he was seeing a picture of me on the internet. When I finally saw it the Reddit account had already been deleted but the picture remained up. Assessing the damage with a couple of reverse image searches I saw the extent to which other opportunists had taken advantage of my cringey photo. Immediately after Reddit, it made its way to 9Gag then Facebook. Photo compilation sites like Uberhumor and Izispicy followed suite and soon it was everywhere, even internationally. My ugly mug ended up on Russian sites three different times; Polish, Greek, Spanish, even Chinese.

While I had made a Reddit account around the same time as Digg, my first and for a long time, only, interaction with the platform was commenting on the r/Pics picture- decrying the imposter as an attention whore. In the end it's both flattering and embarrassing. An innocent photo posted to a harmless Canadian site was my debut to the internet. I had lurked on the web long enough to know better than to expose myself to the degradation of that picture and that caption in a more public community like Reddit. But that’s just the nature of viral images. Digg survives but has fallen from its grand heights, Tickld is practically dead and the meme economy flourishes. I guess I’m lucky to have participated in it, even if inadvertently. And yet I’m still unwilling to sell out and start using Reddit actively.