Whether we mean to or not, we probably all spend way too much time looking at and reading about viral pictures on the internet. We’ll be sitting at our desks and relaxing on our lunch breaks and decide to take out our phones and look at our Facebook and Twitter accounts — “just for a minute,” we all tell ourselves (as we bold-facedly lie to ourselves). Then we see some outrageous picture and cannot manage to rip our eyes from it. “Is that Bigfoot?” “Who is that with Marilyn Monroe?” “THERE IS NO WAY THEY WILL BE ABLE TO CATCH THAT BEAR!”
Much to our annoyance (and sometimes displeasure, or relief, or frustration), many of these pictures are fakes. They’re often real pictures that have been doctored in some way, filters or angles making things look more real than they truly were, or digital editing software making us all the butt end of a practical joke. Over the years of phony photos populating our social media accounts, some of us have come to believe that any picture we scroll through — unless it has our close friends in it — is probably a fake. But that’s not fair either because many of the pictures we’re seeing are incredibly real; we’re just too skeptical to believe that an awesome photographer caught the perfect picture at just the right moment.
So let’s clear some of the fog and call them out, once and for all. Here are 20 popular viral photos, both the fake and the real:
This picture is very real, and we love that it went viral. It’s a picture of a window washer at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital giving a little fist bump to a kid that certainly needs it, no matter what’s gotten him stuck inside. These photos started going viral a few years ago when a window washer dressed up for Halloween and gave all the kids inside a magical experience. Ever since then, window washers have been teaming up to make lives a little bit brighter for children stuck in hospital rooms. How cool is it to see Spiderman or Captain America or Superman just outside your window? Even if you were mortally ill, you couldn’t help but smile a bit at these ordinary heroes! Here’s to the window washers all over the world who’ve become copycats to the original superhero window washer, making children smile one hospital room window at a time.
Just as a blanket statement: you aren’t going to be seeing a whole lot of new pictures of Marilyn Monroe. In case you didn’t know, Marilyn’s not really modeling anymore — mostly because she died a long time ago. Most of her work has been out there for years and seen by millions over and over again. So if you’re seeing a new picture of Marilyn Monroe for the very first time, odds are that it’s fake. Same goes for Elvis Presley. So when everyone saw this picture of the two together, chilling on a rooftop, they should have immediately questioned its authenticity. Two photos were mashed together in a good, but not overwhelmingly believable composition, though it would be really cool to think of the two of these crazy kids just savoring the city air and kicking back between living the high life. Just because it’s in black and white doesn’t mean it’s real!
Yes. That is indeed a bear falling from a tree. When the picture was released, everyone immediately thought that it was a fake. To be fair, it did look like someone just photoshopped a picture of a bear into a normal shot of police officers standing around and looking at something. A really lazy photoshopper, too — it looks like there was a picture of a bear standing upright that was shrunken down and tilted diagonally. Well, sadly, this is a real picture! A wild bear had wandered into the suburbs and animal control was called in, shortly followed by police. The bear had retreated into a tree because it was scared, but of course, they couldn’t allow it to stay there. Animal control shot a tranquilizer at the bear and, when he could no longer resist sleep, he fell from the tree onto a giant mat. The bear was taken back into the wilderness and lived on to grumble about us lousy humans.
Really, guys? Did you not know that this one was a fake? To be fair, the picture itself is real. To the keen eye, it kind of looks like the picture was photoshopped and like the image on the left side of the sign was conveniently pressed up against the image on the right side, just well enough to match the body up at the waist. But the picture is real! However, it was crazy staged! It was taken to commemorate the many criminals who have met this sort of fate. The picture was taken long ago, back in 1939 — way before people were talking about building giant walls and making those we were keeping out pay for it. It was also taken to discuss how problematic the border is between El Paso and Juarez. Imagine how much more problematic that border will be if we have an 18-foot high wall separating the United States from Mexico…
This adorably sad picture is, to our disappointment, real. It’s a picture that a nanny took one sad day when she wanted to take one of her toddlers to the zoo. Back in 2013, we suffered a government shutdown that really gave a scare to almost everyone in the United States. Everything closed, from post offices to museums to zoos. This nanny wasn’t aware of the closures, and this child was so horribly disappointed that he climbed onto the gates of the Smithsonian zoo and hoped that maybe, just maybe, if he looked pitiful enough, someone would come and let him in. No one did, and the picture caught fire and spread around the internet with people asking to “please open the government again.” Funny how people value government so much, but only when it goes away or stops providing their many services.
Teeheehee. It would be a darn shame if this picture weren’t real. It’s just so cute and innocent and ridiculous that it would have been such a grand disappointment if someone had just messed with the child’s face! But NOPE! This picture is of a mega-excited little girl who has just spent so much time blowing bubbles and is overwhelmingly excited to move on to the next thing. The picture caught fire on the internet for no good reason. She’s just so adorably excited, and her little chubby grin is too much to resist. The picture quickly became a target of memes everywhere for all trollers, with captions running across it like “GOTTA GET BREAD AND MILK, IT’S GONNA SNOW,” “IT’S BLACK FRIDAY, I NEED PRINGLES,” “DALLAS COWBOYS BE LIKE RUN, THE EAGLES ARE COMING,” “REALIZING THERE ARE MORE TOASTER STRUDELS,” and our current personal favorite, “BETTER RUN, HERE COMES JOSH DUGGAR!”
Okay. We need to talk about this one. For a lot of reasons. Alan Rickman, who played Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movie series, passed away not too long ago. He was such a beloved member of the cast and of the series that his death hit all of his fans hard. If you were a fan of either the books or movies, you likely remember these quotes, and you might want to tear up at how sweet and beautiful they are. But don’t. Because Alan never said this. A Tumblr user, mypatronusisyou123437597309, actually posted a variation of the quote in July of 2010, and in 2016, when the supposed Rickman quote went viral, she clarified that she really was the source of the quote. That Rickman said it is a load of crap.
What did we say about Marilyn Monroe pictures? If you’ve never seen it before, that’s probably because it’s a new picture — and if it’s a new picture, it’s a fake picture. This photo was edited in the exact same way that the last photo featuring Marilyn Monroe with Elvis Presley was, and it, hilariously enough, even used a picture from the same series of those taken of Marilyn that the last fake photo poster used! SHE’S WEARING THE SAME DRESS! This doctor of photography was even lazier than the last, simply pasting a picture of James Dean from East of Eden over Marilyn’s original photo. Cute to think that these young troubled souls were smoking and drinking away their problems atop skyscrapers in The Big Apple together, and maybe they were, but this picture is certainly no evidence of that. You can never trust an unfamiliar Marilyn Monroe picture…
Yes, this absolutely hilarious picture of a dog playing underwater is real! Photographer Seth Casteel is a real dog lover and has already made a living for himself taking pictures of pups and other animals and pets. But he had an extra special creative idea: to wait underwater while dogs jumped into swimming pools, chasing after toys or treats or just excited to take a dip, then to take snapshots of the goobers upon entry to the water. And the reactions he got were priceless! He released a book containing the photo series called Underwater Dogs and has gotten even more money since the series went absolutely viral. There were some adorably hilarious pups that he managed to capture on camera, and for that, we thank him, his underwater camera, and his impeccable timing. But someone get this dog a towel and a big treat for his hard day of work!
Not so real: this gentleman’s guide to amputation. This viral picture of an 1800s poster was released not too long ago when the craze of gentlemanly behavior (including ridiculous mustaches, odd facial hair, and weird facial hair care products were blowing up the market) was just getting going. The picture depicts a step by step guide on how to amputate a limb, including two calm gentlemen sawing off an arm like it’s just another day at work. After the men finish severing the limb from one man’s body, the two share a glass of brandy in celebration of their accomplishment. Well, of course, the poster is fake. Turns out, it was someone’s school project (what kind of school are they going to?), and someone spread it around as if it were authentically from the civil war era. Though we’re relieved to hear it’s a joke, we also kind of want to hang it in every doctor’s office…
This viral picture went all over the internet shortly after one of the biggest missions of the Obama Administration was completed: the takedown of Osama Bin Laden. Some people guessed that the photo was a fake when they initially saw it because rarely are the president, the vice president, and the secretary of state all in the same room — what if something were to happen that took all three out of commission? Fortunately, nothing of that nature happened, and we all had huge reasons to celebrate that evening. However, before we were parading through the streets with American flags waving and cheers abounding, these White House officials were all crowding around a table, awaiting what would either be a wonderful evening of victory or a tragic failure of the administration. The victory was one of the proudest moments of the Obama administration, alongside the passing of the affordable care act and all of the wonderful advancements made on addressing pollution and global climate change.
Obama’s administration has been succeeded by the Trump administration — though we’ve got our strong opinions on the matter, we’ll just say that the two administrations are VERY different. When Trump was running for office against Hillary Clinton, America was very divided (edit: America is still divided over the issue to this day). There were rallies in support of candidates and against others, and many times, these rallying groups collided, and things got a little physical. One Trump supporter posted this picture saying that “loving and docile democrats assailed a Trump supporter, causing this damage.” Well, not only was this supporter a liar — he or she was also a lazy and bad liar. This picture is of actress Samara Weaving, who starred in the show Ash vs. Evil Dead and was only taking a picture of herself in makeup for the show. Once the photo was unveiled as a fake, the Trump supporters got harangued for lying, abusing social media, and perpetuating fake news.
This must be one of the funniest pictures of the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations. In fact, it was SO funny that a lot of us didn’t believe that it could be real at first. The photo was released right after President Obama had a meeting with his soon-to-be-successor, Donald Trump. Obviously, Barack was pulling for Hillary Clinton in the election: he loudly supported her campaign and even trash-talked Trump a bit to try to get his point across. Well… things didn’t work out the way he’d liked. At all. And in this picture, where Obama is pretty much forced to shake the hand of a man he doesn’t trust, doesn’t like, and doesn’t have faith in, Barack could not hide just how much he hated everything. But at least his expression is better than Donald’s — it’s not an arm-wrestling contest, Trump.
So, we’ll admit — this one is a bit of a cheat. This is one of those pictures that borders on meme because the picture itself means very little — the wording on it says a lot, though. Very recently, this picture surfaced and spread around the internet like wildfire. It’s a quote from Thomas Jefferson saying, “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.” Yeah, okay… except Thomas Jefferson never said that. Actually, Jeffersonian scholars say there’s no record of him ever saying ANYTHING like that and that if this quote were actually from anyone famous, it’s really a loose translation of an Ayn Rand quote!
This is no statue, this is no piece of art, and this is no demonstration — this is a nightmare, a tragedy, and a sadness to anyone with a heart. This is a real live dog from Argentina that was doused in tar by abusive humans. Two young boys found the pitiful pup in this state and took him home, carefully cleaning and scouring the dog until the tar was removed. The dog has indeed been restored to health and is now a proud pet of good owners, but the world shuddered in horror as we saw what sick and horrible people can do to innocent and harmless animals. How could anyone deign to commit such a horrible act to something so kind and small and pure? It was just another example of how cruel this world can be and how people can be cruel in either grand measures or in tiny and seemingly unimportant cases.
Donald Trump and his supporters are… well, let’s just say that there has never been anyone quite like him. A lot of nasty things have been said at Trump rallies by fans, supporters and the big boss himself. But we have to be honest, and so do you: Trump supporters are humans, too, with consciences and reasons behind their logic and hopes and dreams. Remember when Trump supporters posted that fake picture of a woman getting beaten up by Clinton supporters? Well, this was essentially retaliation from the Clinton side. The third woman from the left was wearing a shirt that said “GREAT,” not “WHITE.” But it was so easy to photoshop the photo that we really are not surprised someone did. Everyone bought the fake picture for a while, but come on — nobody is that cruel, right? Maybe they’re bigots that are thinking that, but no one would get shirts for that…
Could this actually be a picture of two of our all-time heroes talking philosophically, sharing their wisdom and experiences? Or is it just two pictures of these amazing men doctored and brought together like the many pictures of Marilyn Monroe with Elvis Presley and James Dean were? Most people thought that the latter was the more believable response in this case, but this picture is actually real! Leonardo is very passionate about the effects and impacts of climate change, which was one of Barack Obama’s greatest concerns while in office. After Leonardo made an address on the lawn of the White House, the two had long conversations about what had to be done, what could be done, and how soon we could do it. They spent a long time talking about these topics, proving just how amazing both of these guys are.
Last year (actually, almost exactly a year ago — how crazy is that?), this picture was posted by a man as he was road-tripping through Canada. He was a United States citizen, and even though the U.S. is getting a lot better about cutting down on homophobia, we have a long way to go before LGBTQ+ issues are commonly accepted and not constantly labeled and harassed and attacked. So, as this fellow was driving through the gorgeous Canadian countryside, he paused when he saw a baby moose on the side of the road. Adorable! But also a great photoshop opportunity… he easily pasted a LGBTQ+ Pride flag in the photo, and everyone lost their minds over this adorable baby moose that was concerned about topical social issues. Almost everyone could spot that it was a fake pretty early on, since it was such a simple editing job… but darn it all; it was so dang cute.
What are we even looking at here? A weird statue of a man? Why is his face like that? Is this an ice sculpture in a lake? Forget it, we’re bored and confused. Scroll away, scroll away…
Actually, this picture is real, and it’s one of the most gorgeous feats we’ve ever seen. The picture was taken by a photographer named Francois-Xavier Marit, who was waiting underwater as Olympic athletes in Rio were taking their dives into the water. He perfectly caught Britain’s Thomas Daley as he entered the water and began to push the water away from him before reemerging to the surface. Look: his feet haven’t even entered the water yet! Thomas is still probably worried about and focused on his form, not on any photographers that are chilling underwater! This was immaculately timed, and we hope that the artistry encourages more swimmers to consider the art of diving in the future.