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What’s it like to be “Internet Famous”?

Formers memes recount their rise to faux-celebrity—and the inevitable decline.

Caite Upton’s ineloquent response during a 2007 beauty pageant interview catapulted her to Internet infamy. She spoke with New York magazine about the experience:

Somebody once put a letter in my parents’ mailbox about how my body was going to be eaten alive by ants and burned in a freak fire. And then it said, in all caps, GO DIE CAITE UPTON, GO DIE FOR YOUR STUPIDITY. That’s the kind of stuff people would say to me for two years.

The article features discussions with Upton and a handful of other ex-memes. Among the interviewees are the “Leave Britney Alone” vlogger, the “Evolution of Dance” guy, the homeless “Golden Voice” man, and the “Charlie bit my finger” family.

The conversations cover some fascinating territory. Do online services that allow anonymous comments (e.g. YouTube and Reddit) encourage abuse? Who leveraged their unexpected fame into cash, who didn’t, and who regrets it? How do the celebs feel about imitators piggy-backing on their success? How did they handle the inevitable decline in popularity?