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I'm on the front page of Reddit. This is how it feels

Commentary: A CNET employee took a picture of herself looking like a work of art. Here's how that photo traveled from her Instagram account to internet fame.

Woman has a striking resemblance to subject of The Broken Pitcher by William-Adolphe Bouguereau from pics

Today, I woke up and opened Reddit's front page like I normally do (ahem, every single day for the past six years). Boom! My face stared back at me.

I've spent all morning answering dozens of texts, emails and Facebook messages from co-workers, old friends, even guys I used to go out with, wanting to know if the girl in the photo was me. It's surreal, and time-consuming, to go viral on the internet.

If you're as obsessed with Reddit as I am, you might have seen a picture of a woman standing in front of a William-Adolfe Bouguereau painting called "The Broken Pitcher" looking strikingly like the girl in the 1891 portrait. Yeah, that woman's me.

My friend took the picture at San Francisco's Legion of Honor museum in November. He didn't see the resemblance, but I twisted his arm and he begrudgingly took the picture with my phone. My shirt happened to match the skirt of the girl in the painting, which was a fun coincidence. I posted the photo to Instagram (with a filter to add an old-timey feel) and Facebook, where my friends and family generally thought the photo was cool. But that was it. Up until a few days ago, my 10-month-old Instagram photo received a whopping ... 11 likes. (It's at 913 now, and changing by the minute.)

My spirit painting.

A post shared by Rebecca (@fleezee) on

On Reddit, the photo has more than 1,600 comments, many of which are concerned that I'm some sort of vampiric time traveler.

So how did this photo make it to the "front page of the internet?" Two weeks ago, I came home from a date cheerfully buzzed, started checking my emails, and discovered I'd been added on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram by someone I didn't know. His message said he'd come across my dating profile and went about trying to find me in real life. To be fair, I work for a media company and I'm not that hard to find. But it wasn't until the next morning that I discovered how, exactly, he tried to dig up my real name.

He stole the photo of me with the Bouguereau painting from my dating profile (where only my first name is visible) and he put it on his own Instagram, with hashtags including #FindingRebecca. Kinda creepy.

I submitted a copyright infringement claim to Instagram, hoping my borderline stalker would get the message to leave me alone without having to talk to him directly. By the next morning, Instagram had removed my photo from his account, but he sent one last unsettling follow-up email trying to convince me to go to brunch with him. I didn't respond.

But the viral wheels were already in motion. In just two days on this guy's Instagram, my photo had gotten over 500 likes and started to spread on Instagram, and then beyond.

By Saturday, someone had compiled an album of museum doppelgangers and posted it to Imgur. A friend texted me letting me know I was at the top of one of the most viral albums on Imgur that day.

I headed into work Monday wondering if anyone would have seen the album on Imgur and waiting to see how far the photo would spread. About four hours later, my boss messaged me a link to Bored Panda, which had posted the album (with a few additions). It headlined Bored Panda, which also posted it to its Facebook account, which has 11 million subscribers.

The madness really started to kick in when my best friend let me know God himself (on Facebook at least) reposted the Bored Panda album.

Then this morning, I front-paged Reddit. So much precious Reddit karma that I will never receive.

It's very, very strange seeing your face all over the internet. For me, it's cool that the world agrees I bear an uncanny resemblance to a 19th-century French painting. It's also unnerving to be thrust into a spotlight that could bring additional unwanted attention.

But now that I've accepted my newfound internet fame, I thought I should clarify a few things:

  1. I'm not a vampire. Just a big "Buffy" fan.

  2. I'm not a time traveler, or I would absolutely be riding a dinosaur right now.

  3. I'm not an immortal or Dorian Gray. (Actually I'm almost 29.)

  4. Online dating is really hard.

  5. I've looked into replicating the outfit of the girl in the painting. I could do it for probably $50 on Amazon.

But hey, Reddit's own Shitty Watercolour painted me/the girl from the painting! So at least I can get that framed.


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