Hide The Pain Harold Meme

Meme History: Hide The Pain Harold

The story of how a series of stock photos defined an era.


Kyle Calise


Do you ever feel like you’re just barely hanging on? Like the inescapable weight of the universe is so big that it might physically crush you? Do you feel that behind your quietly simpering eyes, there is a bruised soul within, near to his or her utter, most absolute, and truest breaking point?

When András Arató went on vacation with his wife in Turkey, like anyone he posted a few pictures to social media, but this one in particular happened to be seen not by a friend, but by a local stock photographer.

In Body Image

The two began working together, and ultimately ended up taking hundreds of photos of András. In September of 2011, the first known forum thread compiling András’ images, was posted to facepunch. com. It called him “the pain harold” thinking it would be a great wrestling name for a guy with András’ likeness. But rather than getting tough guy wrestling vibes, most users instead looked into András’ eyes and saw something closer to quiet desperation than anything.

In recognition, pretty quickly a number of Facebook groups were created dubbing him “Hide the Pain Harold.” Around the same time, and perhaps more importantly, this new meme also spread across Reddit and 4chan.

Bad luck? Want to make fun of the Boomers? Find yourself in a situation where you’re just barely hanging in there, but you’re still trying to somehow be positive? These are all good moments for Hide the Pain Harold.

In a few years, users on 4chan were making up backstories for the character, ironically, or maybe appropriately detailing Harold’s life as a stock photography model.

In it, almost every image has an appropriate caption, but they’re ordered so they almost tell an actual story of Harold’s life. By the fall of 2014, an Imgur user posted a large compilation of Hide the Pain Harold images and their accompanying captions, which gained 880,000 views in three weeks. And on YouTube, someone created a video of the original 4chan backstory, narrated via text-to-speech.

He was a big deal. Around this time, search interest for Hide the Pain Harold was right on par with other famous internet images of the time, like That’s None of my BusinessCondescending Wonka, or Galaxy Brain, to name a few. 

For András’ part, he first realized he was a meme after reverse image searching himself, and quickly decided to identify himself in order to humanize the meme.

In an interview with the Daily Dot, András was quoted saying “People recognized that I’m a human being and not a Photoshop creation,” he said. “The rude or disobliging memes have completely disappeared. For the most part, the memes are funny.”

By 2018, András had long accepted his meme fame and used it to book actual appearances in real life. People had fun using his face for their jokes, and they wanted to see more of him. András appeared in a video for Dugout.com promoting football generally and the city of Manchester specifically

he gave his own TEDx talk detailing his rise to fame,

and he even appeared in a music video for Hungarian rock band Cloud 9+.

András noted that the memes haven’t made him rich, but it seems like he’s having a good time with it. He told the Daily Dot, “I don’t get paid when my photos are used in memes…However, I have gained a great fanbase!”

So it’s good to see András finally embrace Harold because we only mean it as a joke. András’ likeness is one that on its face represents pain and a kind of holding it together, but for those of us who were there for Harold’s peak, it’s really more about actual fun.

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