We’ve all seen things go “viral” on the Internet, but I never really considered what it would be like if I were the one responsible for a viral post. It wasn’t pretty.
One night last semester, after eating out with my friend, I brought my leftovers home in a Styrofoam container. When I got home, I wanted to take a bath but I wanted to eat, too, so I decided to do both at once.
I thought the container of takeout floating in my tub looked hilarious, so I took a picture and posted it on my Tumblr page. I had around 300 followers, and the post had a few notes when I went to bed.
When I woke up, thousands of people had reblogged my photo. I ultimately gained over a thousand new followers, and dozens of messages were flooding my inbox.
Most people told me how funny it was, but not everyone felt that way.
A lot of people added comments to the picture as they reblogged it, calling me stupid or using this as an example of the dumb things that white girls do. Few bothered to personally message me about it, but I was notified of all the commentary and some of it was hard to read without wanting to send hate mail of my own.
None of these people knew me, yet thousands felt like they had the right to make assumptions about what kind of person I am, based on a photo that doesn’t even show my face. And they were brave enough to do this because they didn’t have to look me in the eyes or even follow my blog.
At this point, the novelty of the situation had worn off, and I was getting a little annoyed when people started informing me that my photo had been posted to Twitter without my permission.
The woman who posted it on Twitter had not given me credit for it, and it was gaining thousands of retweets. According to her Twitter profile, the woman who reposted my photo is Savannah Pitts from Tuscaloosa, a student at the University of Alabama. She did not answer requests for comments on the matter.
Then, Iggy Azalea retweeted it, jokingly adding, “Did someone steal this from my phone?”
That’s when I began getting hate mail for hacking Iggy Azalea’s phone. My legs, in my bathtub, eating my food, and I was getting flak for supposedly stealing from an award-winning artist. It was unreal.
I contacted Twitter about removing the offending post, but it was a more complicated process than I thought it would be, and I just gave up. If she wanted to pretend those were her legs, I would make my peace with the matter.
Eventually, a radio station uploaded a screenshot of the post to Facebook with my URL visible. I was credited this time, but this made matters worse. I really didn’t want my Tumblr page, though it has photos of me, to be associated with my name.
As old people on Facebook commented on how disgusting my personal hygiene habits are, people I barely spoke to in high school began asking if that was really me.
At this point, I was really done with my 15 seconds of fame. I deleted the post from my blog and all answered questions associated with it. I then changed my URL so that I am no longer associated with the post at all, though it’s still floating out there.
Initially, I loved the attention. I’ve never gotten any attention for something, no matter how ridiculous, born out of my own creativity, so as a journalist I was excited.
But somehow I was still surprised that people can be very mean, especially over the Internet. Since that infamous upload, I’ve gotten over 20 messages requesting to post photos of my feet and also inquiring about my shoe size.
Currently, the post has 260,000 notes on Tumblr, and the stolen post got 34,000 favorites and 14,000 retweets on Twitter. I’ve also been told it has been seen on Facebook and Tinder.
I now eat takeout while looking thoughtfully into the distance, remembering that time that this very action made me Internet-famous for a couple of days.