your favorite meme is almost 100 years old

"Expectation vs. Reality" was potentially even funnier in 1921.

by Hannah Ongley
16 April 2018, 7:12pm


One of the internet’s best memes is a two-panel image called "Expectation vs. Reality" or “What You Think You Look Like vs. What You Actually Look Like.” It highlights the gap between our self-idealized image and how others perceive us, generally by imaging humans in potentially awkward situations, i.e. walking in the wind, wearing a tux, or painting one’s own nails. This endearingly misguided self-confidence hardly not a new thing. In fact, the “Expectation vs. Reality" meme was actually invented back in 1921, as a hilarious comic strip about how people suck at being photographed. The comic’s captions are almost exactly the same as those in the meme, and the shoddily drawn cartoon man’s disappointment is equally relatable.

According to Gizmodo, the comic was first published in a satirical magazine called Judge, which ran from 1881 to 1947. The 1921 issue included something called “With the College Wits,” where the rudimentary meme first appeared. Flash photography was invented in 1887 as a powdery and probably rather dangerous explosion that could be captured on film, hence the “flashlight,” but using it as a synonym for “photo” somehow makes the joke even funnier. 97-year-old comic figures, they’re just like us!

What You Think You Look Like vs. What You Actually Look Like