“Michael said he would meet me behind this tree for a bit of fun. He’s running late. Will someone please tag him and tell him I’m still waiting?”
Maybe the woman in the meme is overweight. Maybe she has crooked teeth. Perhaps the angle of the photo means you can see up her nose. In one case, the woman has a rare medical condition that prevents fat from being stored beneath the skin so her face clings to the outline of her bones.
It’s the latest trend to go viral on social media — real (mostly) women turned into a meme so people behind screens can scoff as they tag their friends. Laughing at all the “Michaels” they know.
We don’t know who the women are. Where they’ve come from. Just what they look like.
Imagine how that feels.
“At the time you might find it hilarious but the human in the photo is probably feeling the exact opposite,” Lizzie Valesquez – the actual “human in the photo” – wrote in a Facebook post.
Lizzie is the woman in the meme, leaning against the tree, apparently waiting for Michael. She is also the woman with the rare medical condition that means she can’t store fat beneath her skin.
Most accurately however, Lizzie is a motivational speaker. A fierce campaigner against bullying. The subject of a recent documentary Brave Heart. A TED Talk speaker. She is currently lobbying introduce the first federal anti-bullying bill in US parliment.
That is who Lizzie is. She doesn’t care about Michael.
“I’ve seen a ton of memes like this all over Facebook recently,” her Facebook post read. “I’m writing this post not as someone who is a victim but as someone who is using their voice.”
“Yes, it’s very late at night as I type this but I do so as a reminder that the innocent people that are being put in these memes are probably up just as late scrolling through Facebook and feeling something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”
“No matter what we look like or what size we are, at the end of the day we are all human. I ask that you keep that in mind the next time you see a viral meme of a random stranger. At the time you might find it hilarious but the human in the photo is probably feeling the exact opposite. Spread love not hurtful words via a screen. Xoxo Lizzie”
Lizzie’s post has been shared almost 100,000 times. It has received 115,000 likes. Hundreds of comments.
According to the BBC, the groups responsible for creating and circulating these memes have since been shut down by Facebook.
Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud team discusses social media platforms. (Post continues after audio.)
The joke was never funny. But, when you’re reminded of the human in the photograph, it becomes sinister. Pointless. It leaves you with a sick feeling in your stomach.
You start to wonder about the humans behind the meme.
The invisible keyboard bullies who get their kicks out of pointing fun at people who don’t look the same as everyone else. They act with complete disregard for the lives or feelings or accomplishments of the subjects they’re turning into shares.
I need someone to remind me of their humanity. It seems to have been lost.