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8 More Regular People Who Became Internet Memes

Last month we introduced you to nine real people whose pictures have become famous on the internet. Now meet eight more!

1. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy

Zeddie Watkins Little is a good-looking guy. So good looking, in fact, that his face has been plastered over the Mona Lisa and Jesus. The shot above, taken during the 2012 Cooper River Bridge Run by computer programmer and self-taught photographer Will King, was a “total fluke,” Little says. After the photo stormed Reddit, Little chatted with Redditors about his newfound fame. He admits that he’s not hating the whole thing: “I have to say, I really enjoy being part of such a good joke.” He also showed up on Good Morning America with Will King to tell the story.

2. Skateboarding Professor

“Walking sucks, so I get there on my wheels.” That’s how Dr. Thomas Winter, a professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, explains why the skateboard is his preferred mode of transportation. While he says there’s nothing remarkable about the way he gets around campus, the internet begs to differ. After Redditor tr0llzor posted a picture of the 68-year-old rolling to class, a meme was born. Winter admits that he finds the image captions’ "contemporary slang" confusing, and is further confused by the idea of memes in general—in an interview with Mashable, the professor thought he was being asked about Richard Dawkins’ genetic memes.

3. Angry Hipster Girl

It started a couple of years ago with a Halloween costume: “Birkenstocks with wool socks, jean shorts, tie-dye crop top, braided band in my hair and a prescription pair of glasses... It seemed only appropriate to grab a quick and silly shot of my costume before going out to party. The next day I posted it on Facebook and Flickr, and then forgot about it.” Then a few months ago, Kate Killet’s friend forwarded a link to Quickmeme and asked if it was a picture of her. It was!

Since being branded Angry Hipster Girl, Kate says she’s been recognized by “lots of friends of friends and randoms I haven't talked to in years,” but hasn’t been approached by strangers about her memedom. Should you find yourself in the same situation, she has a bit of advice: “Enjoy your internet 5 minutes. Don't get mad or offended, the internet loves you. And turn off your Twitter and Facebook notifications, cus you'll get roughly a million.”

(This is Kate's official internet reveal. Thanks to _floss reader Jenny Serwylo, who is quite funny and also on Twitter, for outing her friend in the comments of my earlier post.)

4. Baby Godfather

The image that started the Baby Godfather meme, which is exactly what it sounds like, was taken at a wedding in 2010. Redditor timekeepsgoing posted the picture of his son with a request to Photoshop the intimidating little guy into scenes from The Godfather. Timekeepsgoing keeps a scrapbook of the best images for his son, who is now five years old.

5. Pepper-Spray Cop

The day Lt. John Pike nonchalantly pepper-sprayed a group of Occupy protesters at UC Davis in November 2011, the video and photos were spread across most major news outlets. Simultaneously, he started showing up in other places with his can of Defense Technology 56895 MK-9, casually spraying everyone from the Founding Fathers to Mister Rogers.

6. Friendzone Johnny

Just about everyone has felt the pang of unrequited love, but almost no one has to live through it while the internet laughs. Johnny Solis is the exception. In January 2012, he showed up at midnight to his friend Lizz’s house with flowers to wish Lizz a happy birthday. She took a picture, posted it to Facebook with the caption “I am so blessed to have such great friends. Thank you sososoo much Jonathon!” Within hours, it was shared on Reddit and Quickmeme. The next day, Johnny identified himself on Reddit and did a Q&A in a bodybuilding forum. Later, he and Lizz changed their Facebook statuses to “married to” each other, but Johnny revealed that this was just a tactic to “get people off [their] backs.”

Though Johnny and Lizz apparently never got together, he seems to be taking the ordeal in stride, saying that becoming a meme makes him happy because “I became famous and more girls are talking to me.”

7 & 8. Vancouver Riot Kiss

Canadians are famously well-mannered, but after the Canucks lost to the Bruins in last year’s Stanley Cup finals, our neighbors to the north took to the streets to wreak havoc. Caught in the mayhem, Alexandra Thomas was knocked to the ground by shield-wielding riot police. Her boyfriend, Scott Jones, swooped in to comfort her; the kiss was caught by a photographer and on video from several angles, most of which included fire and riot police in the frame. The smooching couple were subsequently Photoshopped into scenes of extreme danger or inappropriateness, or in the background of other famous kissing scenes.

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#TBT
Before Bitcoin: The Rise and Fall of Flooz E-Currency
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In the late 1990s, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Spencer Waxman was in Morocco on holiday when he heard an Arabic slang term for money—flooz—that stuck with him. In the dot-com boom taking place back in the United States, URLs with obscure etymology were popular. When Waxman and partner Robert Levitan decided to co-found a novel way of disrupting the online commerce industry, calling it Flooz.com was almost a foregone conclusion.

What Levitan and Waxman envisioned was a virtual gift certificate that would drive business to participating online retailers, give consumers some sense of security over their private information, and make shopping for stubbornly gift-resistant recipients easy. Rather than merely offering cyber currency, this was a service with purpose.

Unfortunately, it was also one that was doomed to fail.

A screen capture of Flooz.com
Flooz.com

Non-cash currency has been with us since the Chinese used cowry shells to sort out debt for goods and services more than 3000 years ago. In the 1960s, credit cards became an alluring alternative to saving and carrying paper bills. When online retailing exploded in the 1990s, it was only natural that startups would begin to explore virtual payment methods.

At the time, digital transactions were perceived by many consumers to be a near-guarantee of identity theft. Handing a card to a vendor in a closed-loop retail environment was one thing, but the thought of hackers seizing their information once it was entered into the borderless environment of the internet kept many away from online shopping.

As it turns out, that paranoia would turn out to be justified in our current climate of constant data breaches. It was also good for businesses hoping to turn their apprehension over credit card security into a monetized solution. Flooz.com debuted in 1999, just one year after another currency-based URL, Beanz.com, had garnered press. Beanz were a kind of earned points system, with approved transactions gifting customers with redeemable gift vouchers. Flooz took a different approach: Customers would sign up to Flooz.com and purchase gift certificates for specific retailers, which they could then use themselves or pass along to a gift recipient via email.

For businesses, it was a way of driving traffic to sites; for consumers, it was a way to keep credit card transactions limited to one vendor; for Flooz.com, being the intermediary meant taking a 15 to 20 percent cut of completed transactions on the selected retail sites, which ranged from Godiva Chocolates to Barnes & Noble and Tower Records.

To help Flooz.com cut through online marketing noise, Levitan enlisted actress Whoopi Goldberg to be their spokesperson. In exchange for company shares and Flooz.com money, Goldberg led an $8 million ad campaign for radio, television, and print that extolled the benefits of using Flooz.com.

Whether it was Goldberg’s pitch or the concept itself, Flooz.com met with a receptive audience. The company debuted in the fall of 1999, and had opened 125,000 accounts by January 2000. That year, roughly $25 million in Flooz.com money was purchased and used. (In a nod to the impenetrable vocabulary of the internet at the time, the media loved to point out that Beanz could be used to purchase Flooz.)

Bolstered by the attention and early success, Flooz.com was eventually able to raise $35 million in venture capital. Consumers could meet their gifting obligations by emailing a code to their gift recipient without having to waste time shopping. For a time, it appeared Flooz.com would become a leading method of payment for online transactions.

Actress and Flooz.com spokesperson Whoopi Goldberg is photographed during a public appearance
Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

But it didn’t take long for the seams in the Flooz.com model to show. While gifting vouchers to family and friends was convenient for the gifter, the giftee was stuck with a very limited number of vendors that took Flooz.com as payment. If Amazon, for example, had a deal on a DVD or book that Barnes & Noble didn’t, Flooz users were out of luck. Shopping for a bargain wasn’t possible.

The second and most crippling detail was one Flooz.com was forced to make in order to strike deals with vendors. The company guaranteed its transactions, meaning that it would make good on orders even if Flooz dollars had been purchased via fraudulent means. By the summer of 2001, that commitment became a tipping point. Agents from the FBI informed Levitan that they suspected a ring of Russian hackers had purchased $300,000 worth of Flooz in order to launder funds from stolen credit cards.

This created a paralyzing cash flow problem: As their credit card processor withheld funds until Flooz.com could secure the transaction, people were still busy redeeming Flooz dollars they had already spent. Retailers then looked for Flooz.com to reimburse them. Suddenly, customers trying to pay with Flooz were greeted with error messages that the site was down.

Those issues, coupled with the fact that corporate clients had already started to move away from gifting employees with Flooz dollars, forced Flooz.com to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 2001. Court papers cited almost $14 million in liability. (Beanz.com was also a casualty of the dot-com bust, when participating retailers processing the points steadily went out of business.)

Levitan rebounded, founding the Pando file sharing network and selling it to Microsoft in 2011 for $11 million. Meanwhile, Flooz.com remains a barely-remembered footnote in e-currency, though it would be hard to chart the rise of digital funds like Bitcoin without it. Like with so many other good ideas, timing is everything.

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Big Questions
What Could the Repeal of Net Neutrality Mean for Internet Users?
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What could the repeal of net neutrality mean for the average American internet user?

Zouhair Belkoura:

The imminent repeal of net neutrality could have implications for Americans beyond the Internet’s stratification, increased costs to consumers, and hindered access to content for all. Net neutrality’s repeal is a threat to the Internet’s democracy—the greatest information equalizer of our time.

With net neutrality’s repeal, ISPs could be selective about the content and pricing packages they make available. Portugal is a good example of what a country looks like without net neutrality

What people may not realize is that a repeal of net neutrality would also give ISPs the ability to throttle people’s Internet traffic. Customers won’t likely have visibility into what traffic is being throttled, and it could substantially slow down people’s Internet connections.

What happens when this type of friction is introduced to the system? The Internet—the greatest collective trove of information in the world—could gradually be starved. People who experience slower Internet speeds may get frustrated and stop seeking out their favorite sites. People may also lose the ability to make choices about the content they want to see and the knowledge they seek.

Inflated pricing, less access to knowledge, and slower connections aren’t the only impact a net neutrality repeal might have. People’s personal privacy and corporations’ security may suffer, too. Many people use virtual private networks to protect their privacy. VPNs keep people’s Internet browsing activities invisible to their ISPs and others who may track them. They also help them obscure their location and encrypt online transactions to keep personal data secure. When people have the privacy that VPNs afford, they can access information freely without worrying about being watched, judged, or having their browsing activity bought and sold by third-party advertisers.

Virtual private networks are also a vital tool for businesses that want to keep their company data private and secure. Employees are often required by their employers to connect to a VPN whenever they are offsite and working remotely.

Even the best VPNs can slow down individuals' Internet connections, because they create an encrypted tunnel to protect and secure personal data. If people want to protect their personal privacy or company’s security with a VPN [they] also must contend with ISP throttling; it’s conceivable that net neutrality’s repeal could undermine people’s freedom to protect their online safety. It could also render the protection a VPN offers to individuals and companies obsolete.

Speed has always been a defining characteristic of the Internet’s accessibility and its power. Net neutrality’s repeal promises to subvert this trait. It would compromise both people's and companies’ ability to secure their personal data and keep their browsing and purchasing activities private. When people don’t have privacy, they can’t feel safe. When they don’t feel safe, they can’t live freely. That’s not a world anyone, let alone Americans, want to live in.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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