This Is What It's Like To Become A Viral Meme

Do you ever wonder what happens to the people who are turned into memes? Judging by Ashley VanPevenage's video response after going viral earlier this year, it's pretty much exactly as terrible as you'd expect. According to BuzzFeed, this past January, VanPevenage experienced an allergic reaction to benzoyl, which caused an acne breakout. She sought help from a makeup artist friend, who posted a before-and-after photo online on her Instagram account, @makeupbydreigh. The photo is typical of most acne makeup tutorials: A picture of a makeup-free VanPevenage is side-by-side with a shot of her makeup done, showing clear skin, smoky eyes, and face-framing hair.

There are hundreds of thousands of similar photos floating around on the Internet, but VanPevenage's photo was picked up by Twitter account @virtuallyvivi, who added the caption, "I don’t understand how people can do this and I can’t figure out how to conceal a single pimple on my face."

That particular comment may not exactly be insulting, but other users weren't so self-deprecating. The most common joke was that the photo was evidence in favor of taking a girl swimming on the first date, because apparently people haven't heard of waterproof makeup before. And also because they're total jerks who shouldn't be allowed to speak to women.

The abuse wasn't restricted to Twitter, either — according to iDigital Times, the photo circulated on other social media platforms as well, including Instagram again. After thousands of retweets, memes, and malicious comments, VanPevenage decided to take matters into her own hands. She posted a video entitled "My response to my viral meme," in which she discusses the effect going viral had on her life.

"I've never been one to be uncomfortable with going out ... in my natural state until this picture was posted," she says.

She calls out a few users on one of the Instagram posts — by name, because she's amazing — before returning to the subject of her self-confidence, which took an understandable hit after she was attacked by so many strangers online. Although she was uncomfortable going out in public without looking "done" for a little while after the meme peaked, VanPevenage says she eventually realized that haters are gonna hate.

"That isn't the person I am, and people's opinions don't matter to me," she shrugs. "Everyone should feel beautiful in their natural state ... The only thing that matters is who you really are."

You go, girl. VanPevenage told Bustle over email that the feedback has been largely positive, although she adds that going viral has affected her in ways she didn't foresee. "When I'm out in public I wonder what people are thinking of me and if they know that i am the one they saw on TV," she writes. However, she sees a silver lining.

"People are telling me I inspired them and made them more confident," she says. "This to me is rewarding and makes me feel so confident and it does not make me regret posting this video."

The video is a reminder that the people on the other side of your screen are real people, with actual thoughts and feelings. VanPevenage is hardly the only person to be affected by their life as a viral meme, either. Who wants to be known as Scumbag Steve or Overly Attached Girlfriend? It's not that you can't enjoy memes; I love a good Feminist Frank as much as anyone else. That being said, next time you see a mean-spirited meme, think before you reblog.

If, God forbid, you become a meme yourself, VanPevenage finishes up her video with some advice. "It doesn’t matter what people say about you or what they think about you," she concludes. "Everyone is beautiful inside and out.”

Images: Matt Trostle/Flickr; makeupbydreigh/Instagram; Giphy