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The image was initially used in health articles about excessive sweating. On September 30th, 2011, the illustration was posted in a thread on the /v/ (video games) board on 4chan, in which an anonymous user told a green text story using the sweating man drawing (shown below). In the post, the sweating towel guy is meant to represent the feeling of anxiety felt by a guy awkwardly trying to leave a Gamestop store.
On May 11th, 2012, the website Meanwhile On Fit posted a series of “fat people stories,” one of which featured the sweating towel guy image (shown below).
On September 24th, FunnyJunk user ianosity posted the image alongside an MFW comment about using Wikipedia to write a book report at the last minute. On January 23rd, 2013, NeoGAF member Dresden posted a photoshopped version of the sweating man (shown below, left). On June 15th, an anonymous 4chan user posted an edited version of the picture resembling a character from the 2011 action role-playing game Dark Souls (shown below, right) to the /tg (traditional games) board.