By day he’s Andras Arato: Hungarian electrical engineer and local radio DJ.
But online, he has a very different identity: Hide the Pain Harold.
In a TED Talk in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, Arato tells the story of how he became an Internet legend, and one of the world’s most iconic memes.
He initially attracted the attention of a photographer after posting a photo of himself on vacation on social media. Arato agreed to model for some stock photos for the photographer, posing for hundreds of photos.
“A few months later, I was wondering what my pictures were used for,” says Arato. “I was reassured seeing myself – when I was a doctor, I appeared on a hospital’s home page.”
“But a few months later, when I repeated the search, I discovered the first memes.”
After initially enjoying the fame, he found that some of the more offensive memes were not to his liking. He sought to delete them, but found the phenomenon was out of his hands, and out of his control.
“It’s the Internet’s nature that nothing disappears from the Internet,” he said. “I could close the site, and the next day 3 others would open with the same content.”
So he decided to simply wait out the meme, predicting it would die down soon enough. “Well, I must say I was totally wrong,” he laughed. “The propagation of the images didn’t stop, and even more and more countries joined.”
He then went on to explain the origin of his online persona, Harold.
“During the shooting, the photographer asked me to smile. The Internet people discovered, or felt, that this smile was not really heartfelt. They saw some hidden sadness or pain behind it. So that’s why I got the name, Hide the Pain Harold.”
Arato outlined the opportunities that have come his way since becoming an Internet celebrity, including sharing the stage with electronic group Cloud 9+ and staring in the music video for their song “Hide the Pain”.
Last year, Arato was invited by Official Dugout to watch a football game in Manchester, UK.