The Spaniard who became a global meme without knowing it: “It’s paranoia” | Technology
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In full confinement, his brother-in-law called him scared: “He told me not to worry, but to put in Google ‘the worst person you know’ [la peor persona que conoces]”, explains Josep Maria García, 42 years old. “I typed it into Google, on my screen of gamerI gave him and, pam, I came out, I went down with him scroll and my face, my face, my face. I thought: ‘but what happens here’. It was a paranoia, I was caught, ”she explains.
García, who lives in Molins de Rei (Barcelona) and who tells his story for the first time to EL PAÍS, already knew that in 2018 a satirical page from the US, click hole, had used her photo for a parody piece titled: “Heartbreaking: The worst person you know just hit the nail on the head.” Garcia’s older brother saw her and told her, but she just stood there. Until two years later, when he called her brother-in-law, who is the professional photographer Albert Mollón and author of the original photo. The combination of headline and image manages to reflect a peculiar feeling of the age of social networks: even if hateful people say terrible things nonstop, sometimes they are also right. The illustration of that feeling is Garcia’s face today on the internet.
A search for the title of the article in Google today gives 4,860,000,000 results. Searching for the phrase on Twitter returns dozens of results from May 2022 alone, many just using Garcia’s image to respond to a good argument from someone they don’t like. The opinions of Elon Musk or the conservative leader Ben Shapiro have sometimes been answered with the meme of “the worst person in the world”.
The original photo was taken at Turó Park in Barcelona in the spring of 2014. García was 34 years old and was helping his brother-in-law and childhood friend with the photos. Mollón had a session with an American writer passing through Barcelona. She asked García to act as a model for her to calibrate the light. One photo turned out well, and the photographer uploaded it to the Getty catalog on April 19, 2014. It was found there by a writer from click hole four years later and Garcia’s internet fame began, who is better known among his friends as Paia Moss, which is the nickname he uses on networks, and who today is a technician at the olfactory marketing company Cuarto Sentido and drummer for the group Primogénito Lopez.
In October 2021, the YouTube channel Internet Today described Garcia’s photo as “one of the photos of stock that has managed to remain shrouded in mystery for years despite its meme status.” The greatest effort to reveal who was behind the image was made by a journalist from slateCameron Wilson. Mollón withdrew the photo from Getty after his success. But Wilson managed to find his name in the metadata of the photo used by an Indian page to illustrate a cancer patient. Mollón responded in May 2020 that she was not interested in talking to the journalist, who posted it on Twitter. Some dedicated reader imagined that the model could be a friend of Mollón and searched among his followers on Instagram. There was someone there who looked like the model: it was indeed Garcia. And he wrote her several messages with this memorable phrase: “You are in a really famous photo on the internet.”
A reverse image search brought up a million results, predictably. All the ways the image has been used over the years makes it hard to find a source.
So to eliminate that, I searched for the image and limited results to the dates before the article was published. (Feb 2018). pic.twitter.com/ZjholTNxuN
— cam wilson, new CEO of Tesla, SpaceX (@cameronwilson) May 21, 2020
García, still overwhelmed by so much noise and the loneliness of confinement, declined: “They wrote to us from Melbourne, from the United States, from everywhere, I will have received more than 80 messages and my brother-in-law many more,” he says. “When someone wrote to me, I thought, I don’t trust anyone,” he adds.
García lived a strange feeling: they wrote him messages at dawn from California or Chicago and, on the other hand, among his neighbors nobody knew anything. The headline in English makes the meme have a life linked to understanding the text: “You look around and nobody has said anything, the mayor of the town has not said anything. Nothing has happened in your life, no colleague from the gigs, music people from Sant Feliu, people from Cornellà that I know say anything to me. And some who come are touching my balls random I don’t know where,” he explains. “If it had been on TV3, TV1, something closer, you would take it with more affection. But people bombard you from everywhere that you’re super famous; but let’s see, that is to take for granted, what are you telling me? And then you understand that this is the internet,” she adds.
How can you be famous if no one of flesh and blood in your world knows that you are, if no one stops you on the street? There was another thing that bothered Garcia. The headline said that he was the illustration of “the worst person you know”. Could someone be confused and think that he was, in fact, that “person”? “I read that he had the face of a Nazi supremacist or that his gaze at the horizon has no sensitivity. You are blown away.” Garcia closed his Instagram account because a Facebook group was capturing photos of him and sharing them. He now he has already accepted the adjective and intends to make a shirt with his motto: The worst person you know.
Over time, he has been accepting his new life as a meme: “You learn to rationalize. But she hasn’t happened to anyone. To my sister I said: ‘thank you for calming me down, but the one who is there is me,’” she says. Sometimes, her friends, when someone new shows up between drinks, they tell her that they have a friend who is a meme: “Are you really a meme? Many people do not believe it. It’s like doing magic. I tell them to put the worst person you know on Google, they see me and go: ‘halaaaaa’.
García also does not have the character to ride this wave: “I am a reserved person. I don’t like moves. I like to go my way. I am a battery. We drummers are in the back and, when the concert ends, nobody tells you to sign anything. The spotlights and the microphone at the other end”.
EL PAÍS wanted to take a photo of him to illustrate this article. After hesitating, he opted not to do it: “Let’s not go viral again.” In reality, he has a more friendly and relaxed expression than the stiff guy in the meme. He too has lost weight in these eight years since the original photo.
Garcia knows that the original photos of memes have been converted into NFTs and hundreds of thousands of euros have been paid. “We’ve looked at it and consulted,” she says. At the moment, however, she has not seen a single euro for all this hustle and bustle.
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