One year ago today I had my fifteen minutes of internet fame. The evening before, during the 2016 Olympics, Michael Phelps was preparing to swim in the semifinal of the 200 Meter Butterfly against South Africa’s Chad Le Clos. Le Clos’ prerace antics drew a grimace from Phelps known affectionately on social media as #PhelpsFace.
Like many others, I tweeted a picture of Michael Phelps with his opponent in the foreground. Given Le Clos’ beige and green outfit, I captioned the picture “When you’re about to swim against someone dressed like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.”
By the next morning, the tweet had attained viral status, and by the next day, online news outlets were posting lists of the top #PhelpsFace tweets. Most notably, my tweet was ranked #10 by USA Today. A year later, the tweet has received 1,720 likes and 662 retweets. Teens at my church loved that their pastor was #relatable, and I think I gained a total three new twitter followers that day. I caught quite a bit of shade from a few South Africans and enjoyed some trash-talk with them, but viral social media fame offered no real lasting benefit.
The allure of social media is, in part, a notion of an audience and apparent relevancy, but it’s short-lived. A few teenagers at church think their pastor is a bit cooler than they might have thought before, and I can remind my wife that the internet thinks I am funny even when she doesn’t. All the other attention that tweet brought is gone, but it didn’t really matter anyway.
And I promise you, the irony of writing a blog about this experience isn’t lost on me.