Adrian Smith was shocked to find that a photo of him as an eight-year-old had become an internet meme.
He stumbled upon the picture on Instagram, but it had come from a Tumblr blog in which his image was being used as the stepson of a fictional “teenage stepdad”.
He said he was amused by it, but admitted that as a child he would have found it “confusing and sad”.
Mr Smith’s discovery has now gone more viral than the original meme.
He has been in touch with its original creator, and said he was happy that the image has not been used in a “mean spirit”.
“Teenage Stepdad” offered to kill the character off, but Mr Smith is happy for him to carry on with it if he wishes, he said.
The character which went with the photo was not a part of him, Mr Smith said.
“I had options – I could ignore it, I could get mad about it, or I could embrace it and make it part of my story now, and have it out there as an example of the chaotic randomness that happens with stuff on the internet that we put there,” he said.
Mr Smith, who lives in North Carolina, had contributed the photograph to a Tumblr blog in about 2007 where people were sharing school photos with laser backgrounds. It was taken in 1992.
He said he remembered being very proud of the picture, having managed to find a top that matched the background, for which he had paid an additional $2.
“I’d like to say it’s me pre-glasses, pre-braces, and 100% raw power as an eight-year-old,” he said.
“My grin in the picture is one of smug satisfaction.”
Mr Smith is himself a parent of two very young children – and said it would be a while before they understood what a meme was. But he did not wish to put them off sharing their lives online.
“The lesson is that what you put in the internet might last forever and have a life of its own, but also the internet doesn’t define you, it doesn’t have to be you,” he said.
“Figure out who you are first, and if the stuff out there is part of how you want to define yourself then use it for that, if it’s not, then don’t.”
His alter-ego has had a lively few years, sported some interesting hairstyles and made some questionable decisions, like the time he took up smoking. But Mr Smith thinks the fictional boy would also approve of his own career as an entomologist who “puts videos about bugs on YouTube”.