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Lightning Volcano Photo Op is an exploitable image macro of two men posing for a picture, seemingly unaware that lightning is striking an erupting volcano in the background. Since 2017, the format is used to show the way people will ignore larger and more important matters to focus on smaller and more personal matters, typically by using the image as an object-labeling meme.
The earliest documented use of the photo as a meme was on August 18th, 2017, when it was submitted to the subreddit /r/photoshopbattles, a community dedicated to manipulating images. The original post received more than 28,000 upvotes in six months, and the most popular photoshopped images received hundreds of upvotes each (two examples seen below).
In the following days, the image continued to spread to other sites and platforms through a range of memes. On August 19th, 2017, Instagram meme account the.couch.whisperer uploaded a version of the meme about white people. The image received more than 12,000 likes in four years (seen below).
The meme was rarely used for the next three years, but it experienced a resurgence after August 10th, 2020, when Reddit user ControversialBuffalo uploaded a version of the meme about video game side quests to /r/dankmemes. The post received over 33,000 upvotes in six months (shown below).
On October 30th, 2020, Reddit user MrGrouchy05 posted an example of the meme about Alaska to /r/memes. The meme received over 115,000 upvotes in six months (seen below).
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