The author's photo posted by Geordie Shore cast member Vicky Pattison. (Click for full size)
On the 14th of October, 2012 (a Sunday), I woke up with a hangover and very little memory of the night before. But I did have a vague, unconscious understanding that at some point I'd definitely been making out with someone, which lifted my spirits a little. I went back to sleep.
An hour or so later, a roar of laughter came cascading up the stairs towards my bedroom. "Ron!" I heard someone call out (I'm ginger, so – like every other redheaded male since the Harry Potter films – my housemates call me Ron), "You're gonna love this!"
I knew then that I wasn't going to love it. I made my way downstairs and waded through a room of grins and pointing fingers, jabbing either at me or towards a laptop screen. I leaned in towards the source of all the laughter and saw the picture you see above.
Then it dawned on me that the small ginger guy who was failing to stretch his arms around the girl in front of him was me. Referring back to what I've learned from Heat's body language experts, I realised that I looked a lot more into it than her. There were a steady stream of Likes and comments amassing beneath it.
"Dad asks if you're blowing her up," said my cousin.
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA," said my brother.
After a week of being the primary topic of conversation wherever I seemed to go – the photo had almost 200 Likes by this point – I was hoping for anything that would deflect attention away from me; some kind of public celebrity freakout, a cataclysmic natural disaster – anything, really. Surely the joke would exhaust itself soon, I thought. It would peter out and die and I could go back to being an anonymous ginger boy again. I mean there was no way, was there, that this could get any bigger?
A month or so earlier, my housemate had introduced me to a Facebook page called "Embarrassing Nightclub Photos of the Week". You've probably seen it. It's got over 1.7 million Likes and is exactly what you'd expect it is – a page featuring embarrassing photos of people on nights out. Presumably the idea is that looking at them makes you feel slightly better about yourself the next morning as you wallow in a clammy, Jager-induced pit of misery. Unless, of course, you happen to be in the picture yourself.
We’d joked around that someone might eventually post my photo on there.
Just as the original fanfare among my own personal network of friends was beginning to die down, someone posted my photo on there.
Not long after it was posted it had already accumulated 7,000 Likes and was rapidly spreading through messageboards and newsfeeds – just like wildfire, if wildfire was humiliating and made you want to shut your face in a door until no one could recognise you. If at first it was merely hugely embarrassing, after this development it became hugely exhausting too. Again and again I'd find myself cornered at school or in the street and forced to talk through the story with random classmates. I had weird uni bros who'd never said hello to me before coming up to me in the library, bumping my fist and telling crap, cruel jokes. In the end, my shame turned to weary tedium. I felt more upset for all the horrible comments that were aimed at the girl I kissed than anything else.
Online too, the comments began pouring in. I don't really want to repeat them here but none of them were particularly complimentary and the HUGE majority referred to me as fucking "Ron". I sincerely hope the girl – who, to the world, is still just a nameless, faceless fan of crimson handbags – never saw the online reaction to the photo.
It wasn't long before the Likes inched their up through 8,000, 9,000 and past the 10,000 mark. That particular detail meant that whenever housemates' friends came to visit and were given the introductory viewing of the picture, they'd mostly already seen it.
"No way! That's him?" became the soundbite to define the latter half of my 2012.
And to top the year off – making my Christmas nightmare come true in the process – Geordie Shore's Vicky Pattinson tweeted the photo out to her 900k+ followers.
So what's the aftermath of being a viral star? In the grand scheme of things, not much. As long as you're not over-sensitive and can deal with countless people pointing and laughing at you for an indefinite period of time, you should be alright.
Plus, if you type the words "Ron", "Hermione" and "Jesus" into Google images, it's the very first photo to appear. It's a legacy that basically puts me on the same cultural pedestal as Emma Watson and the son of God, and for that I'm thankful.
More stuff about nightclubs: