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“Wow, I’ve Become a Meme:” The Stunning Stories Behind Viral Memes

Do you ever wonder how did a certain meme catch on and get onto your social media feed? Read on!

Credit: BuzzFeedVideo/YouTube

People can become viral phenomena in no time at all after posting their amusing photos or videos online. Memes! We consume them as often as water. Still, do you ever wonder how did a certain meme catch on and get onto your social media feed? And who are these people? What are the human fates behind everyday laughter? Read on! 

Everyone knows what a meme is, but where did memes come from anyway? Surprisingly, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins invented the word “meme” for his book The Selfish Gene in 1976. Memes like genes randomly form, become modified, and the most successful in infecting our minds spread. They explain why some behaviors, which make no sense from an evolutionary perspective, became very successful in society (e.g., celibacy.) The internet is the breeding ground of memes – and the ways they become viral make no sense either. Let’s look at them now! 

Little chubby baby, also known as Success Kid, clenching a fistful of sand with a determined facial expression.
Credit: BuzzFeedVideo/YouTube

Success Kid Saves His Father’s Life

The picture of this little chubby baby, now the teenager Sammy Griner, became so famous that it was even used in the White House campaign promoting immigration reform. Yet back in 2007, the Griner family just wanted to try their new camera on the beach. Posted on Flickr, no one noticed the photo. Suddenly, after a year, Griner’s parents could see their baby, the “Success Kid,” everywhere, from advertisements to T-Shirts.

Even more interesting is that Sammy eventually saved his father’s life by trying to eat sand! (Have you actually noticed he’s holding sand?) After someone discovered he is the grown-up ‘success kid’, Sammy’s languishing GoFundMe campaign collected enough money for his father’s kidney transplant within three days.

Collage of two pictures. In both features the same woman. In the first half, the woman looks disgusted. In the second picture, the woman seems interested.
Credit: BuzzFeedVideo/YouTube

Kombucha Girl, You’re Fired!

Were you ever feeling bored with your life? Try filming reactions on TikTok. Brittany Broski did just that, which went badly for her – but now she enjoys fame.

In 2019, Brittany was an ordinary bank worker. However, one day, her disgust of kombucha soda, a drink fermented with bacteria and yeast, became viral. The video did not start on her trajectory on TikTok but a Twitter account with gay content. For her fame, the bank fired Brittany. Her manager asked to choose between being a meme or a banker. Was there a choice? However, this was the chance for Brittany to discover her inner entertainer – and eventually make it her profession.

The image of Zoë Roth, known as the "Disaster Girl." She stands in front of a burning house, smiling in a sinister way.
Credit: BuzzFeedVideo/YouTube

From Meme to Me-Rich

In the past, monetizing a meme was nearly impossible for its creator. Non-fungible tokens (NFT) have changed that, leading to a meme gold rush. NFTs work like certificates of authenticity. Rather than owning a sheet of paper, the NFT creates unique string of characters, something like an author’s signature – and yes, they are expensive.

Therefore, anyone, who is the face of a viral meme, can get very rich! Creating and NFT, the image of Zoë Roth, known as “Disaster Girl,” has made Roth about $430,000. Another meme icon, Laina Morris sold her “Overly Attached Girlfriend” meme for about $411,000. Later, Kyle Craven sold “Bad Luck Brian” for around $36,000.

Laina Morris, known as "Overly Attached Girlfriend." Laina is smiling with her eyes wide open.
Credit: BuzzFeedVideo/YouTube

These everyday people accidentally became memes that went on to richly multiply and change. They did not need the previous fame of politicians or celebrities who sometimes also become memes. In a fascinating way, memes have changed the lives of people like Brittany Broski. These people had no idea that their faces would circulate the world for years to come. Maybe you are reading this article today, and tomorrow one of your Instagram posts will be a meme! 

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