Waking up as a meme-hero | Andras Arato | TEDxKyiv

Translator: Rania Saeed
Reviewer: Mirjana Čutura Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause) It’s amazing to be here. And this time, I’m going
to tell you a story. It’s like a fairy tale, but not a fictional one – it’s a true one. It’s a story of my life. Once upon a time,
in a little town in Hungary, 73 years ago, a boy was born. That was me 73 years ago, as I told. Later, I went to the university
and graduated as an electric engineer and worked at different companies
as a lighting expert. I got some scientific awards, and I even was elected
as the vice president of the Hungarian Lighting Society, but – (Applause) Thank you. But it’s not the reason why I’m here now. (Laughter) Maybe many of you
are familiar with my face. So, raise your hand if you’ve seen me
before on the monitor. (Laughter) Do I see well? Everybody? (Laughter) Amazing. Incredible. So, it might be because my photos
are circulating in the Internet in millions of copies. When I post something on a social network,
thousands of people will see it. Some of my videos were seen by millions. Day after day, I got dozens of messages. I brought you just a few examples to show the style and the content
of these messages. This one is from a girl named Giulia
who lives in Italy, and she wrote me, “Thank you
for bringing genuine joy and tenderness in this gray world.” I hope I do. Another one is from the USA,
from a certain Mason. He wrote that, “I loved
watching your video. Seeing your genuine happiness
filled me with my own.” And just one more from another continent,
from Pakistan, from Muhammad. He wrote that I am the best inspiration
to the sad people of the Earth. Am I? (Applause) But … how can a retired engineer become a meme? It’s a strange story
with some interesting twists, and it maybe has some lesson to learn. At least, I hope so. At the beginning, my photos
served as illustration in different Internet publication,
printed publication, newspaper articles,
advertisements, and so on. But later, you could see me mostly
with some funny caption called “meme.” Many of my own age
have not even met this word. I also had to look at it in Wikipedia. So, I found this definition for memes: that it is “an image, a video,
a piece of text, and so on, typically humorous in nature that is copied and spread rapidly
by Internet users, often with slight variation.” That perfectly applies to my case. It started in a very ordinary way: with a vacation, a vacation in Turkey. I think everybody has sometimes vacation, and we all want to capture
our vacation experiences with some photos, and we want to show them to our relatives
and friends and to our families. So did I. I uploaded these pictures
to a social network – not Facebook, it didn’t exist
at that time – to show them to my friends. But not only they, a professional photographer
noticed this picture too, and he contacted me, writing that he was seeking a model,
a character like me and invited me for a trial shooting. Well, deep inside,
I think everybody is a bit vain. I’m not different, so I said yes to the invitation
and went for this trial shooting. He made some pictures. He liked them. I liked them too. He invited me back, and during several sessions,
a couple of hundred pictures were made: stock photo pictures. I knew what these picture are used for. He told me, and I gave a written contribution, but I agreed to use the pictures
to that purpose. I only highlighted three sensitive areas that I didn’t want to see myself
on the monitor or in print. What do you think these topics were? First was politics, religion and sex. Because these are the topics
that can divide people the most, and that’s why I didn’t want to do that. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) A few weeks later – let’s say a few months later – I was wondering
what my pictures were used for. So, it was enough to run
a Google search, an image search, and I was reassured seeing myself
when I was a doctor. I appeared on a hospital’s home page. (Laughter) Like here. (Applause) But when a few months later
I repeated the search, I discovered the first memes. Just an example. Maybe everybody’s familiar
with this picture: the portrait of American presidents carved in rock in Mount Rushmore
in the United States, and they were transformed. (Laughter) Each president was me. (Applause) Well, that was a funny thing,
and I like it, but not only such funny memes were born, but there were some rude
or offensive ones too, and at first, it
was a shocking experience. I didn’t know what to do. My first reaction was that,
“Let’s finish this. Let’s disappear everything.” And I thought about the options. What could I do? Can I withdraw the pictures? No, I contributed in writing to use them – of course in their original form, and not to alter them
and convert into jokes. The second option
was to close down the site. It was an American guy who gathered my photos, my stock photos, and announced the contest
among their friends about who could add some funny text or to make some visual joke, and that was the way
these memes were born. So, can I close the site? Definitely I could. At least, I could initiate
closing the site. But it’s the Internet nature:
nothing disappears from Internet. If I could close a site, on the next day, three others will open
with the very same content. So, it’s no solution or at least, only a temporary solution. So, my only hope was
that so many new things appear day after day on the Internet that people will slowly forget
about me and about my funny memes. Well, I must say I was totally wrong. (Laughter) The propagation of the images didn’t stop. And even more and more countries
joined to this mania. It started in the United States
and went over to Europe and spread out to every
continent of the Earth. I must tell that during the shooting, the photographer asked me to smile. (Laughter) Like this. (Applause) But the Internet people discovered or felt that this smile was not really heartfelt. They saw some hidden sadness
or pain behind it, so that’s why I got the name
“Hide the Pain Harold.” (Applause) Still thought that people will forget it, and many of you seized. But then an Internet user somehow discovered my real identity and sent me an email, writing that there are so many people who don’t believe
that I’m a real living person, a human being. So, he asked me to show myself that I’m a real living person. I ignored his request,
but he repeated again and again and finally, I agreed to upload – (Laughter) (Applause) Maybe a familiar picture:
me with a piece of paper in my hand that I live. [(Russian) I’m alive. Hello.] And in the next few hours, as people say, the Internet has exploded. Ten thousands of people saw this picture, and the international media
discovered me as well. Then there’s nothing left to me
than to embrace the whole thing and to me to come out. So, I established my home pages
on the social networks, like this, for instance. And this whole thing
made a dramatic change in my life. I got invitation to great places, like London, or I’m here in Kiev today. It’s great to be here. (Applause) And I know that the whole thing,
that being “Hide the Pain Harold” is a roleplay. It’s not really me. It’s a role given to me
by the Internet people. And we have learned from Shakespeare,
who wrote in one his plays that all the world is a stage, and every man and women
are merely players. And my part is being
“Hide the Pain Harold.” But it made my life
very exciting and interesting, with many new opportunities. For instance, there’s a pub group,
they’re singing in English, and they invited me
for the shooting of a video clip and after that, also invited me to appear
on the stage on one of his concerts, with a big success, as you can see. But not only smiling this way, but I also had invitation
while I was not smiling in short films or in commercials. (Applause) Thank you. Why did I tell you the story? Of course, not everyone can be a meme. Maybe I’m the first and only one, and the things that happened to me
will never be repeated with anyone else. But I think it’s of more
general importance that after reaching the retirement age,
and not only retired, I think, in every part of your life, you must be aware of new things to do,
to do things you’ve never done before. You have to be open
to the new opportunities, be open to what happens in the world and to try yourself in any field you can. For instance, I tried myself,
after I was a meme, for five years in a small
local radio station as a music DJ. (Applause) And very recently, this year, I attended an art camp
when I learned to make oil paintings. (Applause) This is my first oil painting:
the Birth of Pallas Athene when she pops up out of Zeus’ head. (Applause) And of course, it’s much more enjoyable
to make fun with young people than to listen to the medical complaint
of my contemporaries. (Applause) And finally, one more thing: there are three rules
how to become famous. (Laughter) Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are. So am I. (Applause) So, thank you very much for your attention. (Applause) (Cheers)

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