Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock (Licensed)

As it turns out, the Distracted Boyfriend is distracted by a lot of things.

The Distracted Boyfriend meme hit 2017 like a runaway train. The meme was seemingly everywhere on the internet at the end of last year. A year and a half later, Distracted Boyfriend memes are still popular on social sites like Twitter, thanks to a simple “object labeling” style that allows people to project endless opinions and scenarios onto the three people in the meme.

The meme is based on a stock photo of a man walking with his girlfriend while being distracted by another attractive woman. The photograph, which is still available on iStock by Getty Images, is actually entitled “Disloyal man with his girlfriend looking at another girl”— but it will now and forever be known “Distracted Boyfriend.”  

The best Distracted Boyfriend memes

The photo was taken in Catalonia, Spain in mid-2015, but it didn’t become a meme until the beginning of 2017 when it was posted to a Turkish Facebook group about prog rock. The post says the edited image was sent in by a user named Kaan Aksoy, who as far as we know, was the first one to attach labels to picture. In this case, the photo is used to illustrate musician Phil Collins being distracted by pop music.

distracted boyfriend memes Prog Düşmanlarına Verilen Müthiş Cevaplar/Facebook

A day later, the meme was posted to an English-language version of the group called “Prog Snob” where it has since been shared over 2,300 times.

On February 2, Twitter user @goftrop posted the Phil Collins version of the meme along with the caption, “this is maybe the best meme ive [sic] ever seen.”

New versions of the meme began popping up on Twitter and Instagram later in the year, including this incredibly popular version labeling the man as “The Youth,” his girlfriend as “Capitalism,” and the third woman as “Socialism”.

distracted boyfriend socialism @SadStalinist/twitter

The meme quickly took off from there.

distracted boyfriend : distracted boyfriend spiderman @bromanconsul/Twitter

distracted boyfriend @penguinrandom/Twitter

Who took the iconic Distracted Boyfriend photo?

“I never thought that one of my images will be that popular,” said Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem in a statement he released to the press after being swamped with request for comments. “I didn’t even know what a meme is until recently.”

“It’s quite strange to be a meme,” the woman who played the girlfriend (only identified by her stage name—Laura) said in an interview with New York Magazine. “But also funny due to the imagination of the people.”

The meme has inspired countless variations, with more still being added, but here are some of the best and most notable examples.

READ MORE:

The best memes from the Distracted Boyfriend universe

One of the things that makes these memes so great is that Guillem actually shot a whole series of photographs of the two models together. Apparently, the three of them work together all the time (according to his statement, Guillem stopped working with the third woman although he doesn’t mention why).

Once the meme went viral, people began discovering other pictures in the series, allowing them to build a whole fictional universe around the couple.

For instance, Tumblr user klubbhead posted a series of images of the Distracted Boyfriend and asked the rather obvious question: “GIRL WYD????? DUMP HIM

1) The boyfriend with a wandering eye

tumblr distracted boyfriend wyd dump him 1 klubbhead/Tumblr

tumblr distracted boyfriend : wyd dump him 2 klubbhead/Tumblr

distracted boyfriend klubbhead/Tumblr

distracted boyfriend meme klubbhead/Tumblr

2) The unimpressed girlfriend

Redditor mtimetraveller suggested that maybe the boyfriend became distracted because his girlfriend was constantly shunning him.

distracted boyfriend shunned reddit mtimetraveller/reddit

Although, if you reverse the pictures, you get a story about a woman who refuses to reconcile with a man who has a wandering eye.

3) The girlfriend and the woman in the red dress end up together

There’s even a version where the two women end up together.

distracted boyfriend conclusion @oranforest/Twitter via Know Your Meme

4) The Distracted Girlfriend

distracted girlfriend Antonio Guillem/shutterstock

Although we see the same woman in the picture, she now has a new man, or, this takes place in the past and this is how she meets her future boyfriend, who will later be pulling the same move on her. Anything is possible in this meme-i-verse!

distracted boyfriend memes J0Aco777/reddit

5) Meta Distracted Boyfriend memes

Obviously, any meme that’s been around this long is going to inspire some meta versions.

distracted boyfriend other format jacksaints/reddit

distracted boyfriend memes @carpetislava/Twitter

distracted boyfriend nice butt @KrangTNelson/Twitter

Historical Distracted Boyfriend memes

1) Charlie Chaplin as the Distracted Boyfriend

The idea that a man’s wandering eye could make his partner jealous has been around as long as people have been getting together and has often been a theme for artists in various media.

Take for instance this still from the 1920’s Charlie Chaplin film Pay Day, which many people on the internet thought looked just like the Distracted Boyfriend meme. 

distracted boyfriend meme story @peeto_g/Twitter

distracted boyfriend charlie chaplin @i124nk8/Twitter

2) The 18-Century Distracted Boyfriend

Of course, there’s no reason to stop there. What about this version from an 18th-century painting?

distracted boyfriend meme generator @ELXGANZA/Twitter

The painting itself is about an actor who is ignoring the drama and instead concentrating on comedy. So it was already doing the same thing people are doing now with the Distracted Boyfriend meme: taking a literal situation and using it as a metaphor.

distracted boyfriend meme maker @ELXGANZA/Twitter

Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pile yet another layer on top of that.

distracted boyfriend painting citrus @TheHipsterRebbe/Twitter

The best—and strangest—versions of the Distracted Boyfriend meme

Since the stock photo was turned into a meme almost a year ago, there have been countless variations and edited versions of the Distracted Boyfriend meme. It’s a meme that is now almost universally recognized on the internet, both by those who are Extremely Online and the so-called normies or locals. Here is a roundup of some of the best ones—so far.

This very early version contributed to the meme going viral and might very well have been directed at the President of the United States.

distracted boyfriend meme : solar eclipse dankiger/reddit

This biblical version of the Distracted Boyfriend meme captured the attention of everyone who remembered how Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt:

best_distracted_boyfriend_memes_2018 Twitter/rosegoldram

Here’s one that brilliantly combines the Distracted Boyfriend meme with the Captain America detention meme:

distracted boyfriend @heathdwilliams/Twitter

Here is Link getting distracted by a side quest instead of rescuing Zelda:

distracted boyfriend zelda triforce-princess/Tumblr

If you’re a Black Panther fan, you might enjoy this version that shows W’Kabi, T’Challa’s supposed best friend, getting distracted when Killmonger comes along.

distracted boyfriend black panther @ririwillicms/Twitter

And it seems Link isn’t the only Nintendo character with a wandering eye. Even Mario can get distracted from this lady every now and again.

distracted boyfriend @ColemanCosplay/Twitter

And what could be more distracting than some delicious ice cream? This IRL version of the meme was the latest Distracted Boyfriend image to go viral:

distracted boyfriend ice cream @pjmboothang/Twitter

These examples perfectly illustrate why this meme will never die. People will never stop being distracted from the thing they should be concentrating on, and as long as there are photos that look similar to the original Distracted Boyfriend, this meme will keep popping up and, ironically enough, keep us all from getting things done.

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. 

David Britton

David Britton

David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.