Nobody expects to become a meme.
Tim, a 23-year-old in Austin, certainly didn’t when he innocently posted a late-night Snapchat selfie on his Twitter account in April 2019. In the days that followed, he received numerous messages from people he didn’t know, asking if he was the guy in that picture. Someone — and he still doesn’t know who — had taken his selfie, re-uploaded it to Snapchat and added the words, “Just found out about racism. Damn that shit sucks, man.”
Shortly after that meme became popular, a new version emerged. Using the same photo and format, someone else tweaked the image to read, “Nooo don’t kill yourself your [sic] so sexy aha.” Quickly, both images became memes synonymous with straight, Chad-like men who were somewhat well-meaning but still overtly dumb. By extension, Tim — a gay, admittedly un-masculine guy — became associated with this persona, too.
“People are always surprised that I’m gay,” he tells me. “That picture, it looks very hyper-masculine. I look very much like a dude, right? Then they find out that that’s really not who I am or how I present myself.”
Tim, who now works in talent acquisition, isn’t totally sure what it is about the selfie that made it so ripe for memeing. According to KnowYourMeme, both versions involved text that had previously gone viral, but the one’s using Tim’s selfie each became the most famous versions. Tim theorizes this may be because it’s a thirst trap — there’s just something about the Snapchat selfie camera that makes a person look a certain way, especially with the flash on.
“To be honest, I think it’s the stupid pose,” he says. “I definitely was sort of flexing in that picture. I had my shirt off, and I was trying to look a little bit sexy. But it just ended up translating to me looking like a douche.”
Tim has never really minded the “don’t kill yourself” version of the meme, but the “just learned about racism one” has bothered him. “Having my face attached to such a dumb, stupid statement — I was like, ‘Oh my god, are people really gonna think I said that?’” he says. But while he’s been approached about it by strangers and people still comment about it on his social media, it hasn’t really impacted his day-to-day life. In fact, he’s been able to distance himself from it because it’s not who he is. The real Tim doesn’t talk like that, or even look like that. It’s just another bizarre case of a meme originating totally out-of-context, and he’s become fine with just leaving it at that.
“People think that being a meme must have changed my entire life,” he says. “They’re like, ‘Oh my god, you should make it an NFT.’ That’s ridiculous. I just want to be my normal self and do my silly little things. Luckily, the meme has never stopped me from doing that.”