‘Blinking guy’ just used his viral fame to raise money for MS research

Drew Scanlon blinks in astonishment in this viral reaction GIF.
Drew Scanlon blinks in astonishment in this viral reaction GIF. Drew Scanlon/Twitter

If you’ve spent any time looking at reaction GIFs on the internet, you know Drew Scanlon’s face. He’s the blond-haired man who shakes his head, raises his eyebrows and blinks, in a series of expressions that seem to say, “Oh … Wow. OK then.”

His reaction has become an internet staple over the last two years, particularly in response to shocking posts on social media.

So get your “white guy blinking” memes ready, because there are two things about him you should know.

No. 1: He’s not an internet millionaire, because you don’t get paid for being a meme.

No. 2: He’s a pretty generous dude, because he just used his viral fame to raise more money than anyone else in a charity bike ride for multiple sclerosis (MS) research.

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Scanlon raised US$24,465 for MS research this month, before cycling some 190 kilometres from San Francisco to California’s wine country on Sept. 21-22. His page on the National MS Society’s website shows he raised more money than any of the other 1,412 people who participated in the event, thanks largely to a fundraising campaign focused on his viral GIF.

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“Hi Internet! I’m Drew and THIS IS MY FACE,” he tweeted last Thursday. “If this GIF has brought you joy in the past, I humbly ask you to consider making a donation to the National MS Society. It would mean a lot to me and to those I know affected by the disease!”

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Scanlon’s message has been retweeted more than 19,800 times and liked more than 37,000 times on Twitter.

Scanlon’s face rose to internet fame in 2017, after someone clipped his reaction from an old video game stream.

The original video was recorded in 2013, while Scanlon was working for a video game site called Giant Bomb. The clip showed Scanlon and several of his coworkers’ faces as they react to someone playing a game.

Scanlon’s now-viral facial expression was triggered by another person saying: “I’ve been doing some farming with my hoe here.”

“It’s not like I’ve a say in what the internet does with a GIF of my face, but I’m pleased to see people are enjoying it,” Scanlon told The Guardian in 2017, when the GIF first went viral.

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The 33-year-old says he’s never used the GIF for his own benefit, but he decided to put it to good use this year after learning that two close friends had been affected by MS.

“I’d never used the meme before because I felt like I didn’t own it,” Scanlon told The Washington Post on Sunday, after completing his bike ride. “The internet made it and found this funny way to use it.”

Scanlon has done this MS ride before, but he’s never used his fame to help the fundraising effort. He said he raised $7,000 last year — a far cry from the nearly $25,000 he brought in for this race.

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Katie Bernstein, who is one of Scanlon’s friends with MS, says she was touched to see him tap into his internet fame for a good cause.

“It feels really special to me that when my friend decided to step out into the world with ‘That’s me, that’s my face,’ he could have done it for personal gain,” she told The Washington Post. “But he did it for me and MS.”

Scanlon thanked his followers for donating in a live Twitter video after the race on Sunday, during a celebratory drink with Bernstein.

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“We’ve got the No. 1 fundraiser!” Bernstein says in the video.

“Thanks, everyone who donated,” Scanlon said.

His fundraising page is still accepting donations, in case you want to boost his eyebrow-raising numbers.

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