Would You Want to Become a Meme?

BlogHer Original Post

Mental Floss recently hunted down nine regular people who became memes -- or, at least, their picture became a meme. Ryan Gosling being turned into a meme is just an extension of his celebrity. But there are also regular people like Blake Boston, who became known as Scumbag Steve after his picture was appropriated for a meme from his mother's Myspace page. Some meme celebrities have embraced their memeness, some have ignored it, and others are flat-out cranky to have their image part of someone else's Internet fun.

Dustin Mattson gave an interview last year about his image being used as Hipster Barista. He told Eater.com that the meme doesn't just mock him -- it mocks how he puts food on the table for his family. He states,

I do find it discouraging and disappointing that there was so much exposure brought to an attempt at making a joke of a culinary industry and the professional barista.

Smart Bitches Trashy Books has a great post about viral sensation Carly Phillips, a romance writer and the subject of the sheltering suburban mother meme. Being the subject of a meme can have far-reaching effects:

The problem for Phillips: some of the captions are funny, some are sort of meh, and some are painfully racist and homophobic, not to mention the overarching problem of having one's image used as a symbol for hypocritical self-importance. Not the author brand anyone is looking for.

At the same time, you have Sammy Griner, also known as Success Kid, who has gone on to grace billboards and Vitamin Water bottles (and being paid for his image).

And then there are the times when a child grows up and discovers she or he has been the target of a horrible meme years earlier. Mashable recently reported on Heidi Crowter, who discovered that a picture of herself was taken from her parents' book about raising a child with Down's syndrome.

Years ago, a photo of a baby with down syndrome was taken from a support group website and turned into a controversial Internet meme. That child -- now 16 years old -- is Heidi Crowter, and Heidi just discovered what the entire Internet has been saying about her photo.

This case is being debated under the umbrella of free speech, but legalities are fairly meaningless to people who have been mocked on the Internet. While others debate whether memes are a form of parody, if they are an invasion of a person's privacy, or if the Internet is too much of a Wild West, there are very real people getting emotionally hurt by others who utilize their image without their permission.

Would you ever want to become part of a meme? Have you been?

Photo Credit: Patrick Haney via Flickr.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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