Think back to your very worst day, the one that makes you cringe with shame or shudder into sobs when you think about it. Did it happen in middle school? In high school? At a party? At the DMV? On a plane? Do you think about it every second of the day? Does it define you? Did it become the sum total of your entire life’s work, to the degree that it is the only thing potential partners or employers or teachers or admissions boards ever knew about you? Do college students play videos of your worst day ever while they’re pregaming on a Tuesday night? Do people make canvas prints about it and sell it on Redbubble?

This is the peculiar experience shared by an increasing number of people whose Target meltdowns or road rage encounters or lackluster response to their girlfriend surprising them at college have, suddenly and without warning, become grist for the viral content mill. And it’s one that Tiffany Gomas, otherwise known as the That Motherfucker Is Not Real (TMFINR) lady, a Dallas-based marketing executive whose airplane meltdown went viral last month.

In the video, which was shot on a flight from Dallas to Orlando, a highly distressed Gomas is standing in the aisle of the plane, screaming, “You can sit on this plane and you can die with them or not. I’m not going to.” She then points dramatically toward the back of the plane to an unseen passenger and declaring, “That motherfucker is not real,” the camera cutting to confused passengers in the back of the plane. Gomas was removed from the plane after her outburst, according to flight records, and issued a warrant for criminal trespassing, though she was neither arrested nor charged. The flight was also delayed by three hours due to the disruption.

Prior to the advent of TikTok and Twitter, Gomas’s airplane meltdown would likely have been privy only to the flight crew and the hundred or so passengers on the airplane, as well as their loved ones to whom they’d invariably recount it as a slightly terrifying yet bizarre anecdote. Because the incident was recorded for posterity, however, it turned into a maelstrom. People made memes about Gomas’s meltdown, turning #TMFINR into a trending hashtag; Carrot Top, somehow, also got involved.

Gomas is not unique in having had her actions broadcast on the internet without her consent by clout-hungry content creators; there’s an extensive tradition of people unwittingly becoming Main Characters simply by virtue of existing in public, and have had their lives basically ruined as a result. Take, for instance, the two girls sitting behind an influencer taking a selfie, whose snarky facial expressions led to them being doxxed and calls to their employer to be fired; or Couch Guy, who briefly became public enemy number one for appearing less than enthused in a video his girlfriend took of surprising him at college. Internet history is replete with people whose only real sin was having a reasonable expectation of privacy in a world that does not agree that expectation is reasonable.

Gomas is somewhat unique, however, in that her nonconsensual viral moment has made her into something of a sex symbol for the worst people on the planet. The far right zeroed in on Gomas’s manicured blond good looks, with men who really, really enjoy watching documentaries about Ruby Ridge fixating on her physical appearance, few of whom appeared to consider whether their reaction would be different if she were a slightly less hot person ranting about the possibility of a plane exploding and killing everyone. (Never mind if she was an unhoused person, a gender non-conforming person, or a person of color.)

Gomas’s bizarre claim of having seen a “not real” person scratched the more conspiratorial parts of many social media users’ brains. While much of this was clearly intended in jest, a way to cash in on the meme’s popularity, it would be disingenuous to say that others did not take it far more seriously. Some speculated the motherfucker in question was a lizard person, and the media’s initial inability to find her was interpreted by some as a CIA cover-up intended to suppress whatever she had seen on the plane. (An incident report claiming that her meltdown had been motivated by her suspicion that her relative had stolen her AirPods was largely ignored.) The viral shitstorm devolved into a social media hunt to essentially doxx Gomas and uncover her identity.

Of course, as is the case with most main characters who go viral against their will, it wasn’t that hard for anyone even slightly trained in open-source intelligence gathering (or ex stalking) to figure out who Gomas was. (I can only speak for myself, but it took me about two hours. I reached out to her to request an interview, leaving a few messages with numbers registered to her name, and she did not respond, which I understood and respected.)

As was later reported by tabloids like the New York Post, Gomas is a prominent Dallas-based marketer with a fairly robust social media presence — not a person who exists on the margins of society. The question is, even if it is easy to find Tiffany Gomas, why would anybody want to? Gomas is a private citizen whose actions had had no significant impact on the news cycle, nor was her identity in the public interest; in the footage made available on the internet, she didn’t exhibit racist or harassing behavior. Though her actions were likely frightening to others on the plane, she seemed extremely frightened herself. Indeed, other than the hundred or so passengers whose flight was delayed by her actions, her meltdown had had no material effect on anyone’s life whatsoever. Why did anyone care?

Further, and perhaps more to the point, Gomas made it clear that she didn’t want to be found. Immediately following her meltdown going viral, she disabled her LinkedIn and all other social media profiles, reportedly moving in with her mother; when theDaily Mail finally managed to get comment from her by setting up shop in front of her home, its reporter described her as “recalcitrant,” with Gomas claiming she was planning to hire a lawyer and stating, “They’re staking out my house. They’re staking out my neighbors. They’re going through my mail” before declining to comment further.

Over the weekend, a woman who has identified herself as Gomas, apparently realizing the whirlwind was not about to calm down, set up a website using her full name and issued a brief video statement apologizing for her behavior on the plane. Though she did not go into specifics about what prompted her meltdown, she clearly stated she was deeply disturbed by the experience of going viral and having her “very worst moment captured on video,” stating that she “hope[s] to do good from it and promote positive mental health.”

Of course, there was absolutely no reason for Gomas to do any of this. There was no reason for her to issue an apology to anyone, aside from maybe the people who missed their flight; nor was there any reason for her to disclose what would have been obvious to most reasonable people watching the video: that she had not had a Final Destination-esque premonition or witnessed the emergence of a lizard person, but that she was clearly in some form of extreme distress.

Given the inherently snake-eating-its-tail nature of conspiratorial thinking on the internet, there was also no reason for Gomas to expect any reaction to her video, other than the one that inevitably followed: many people continued to press her on what she had actually seen on the plane, or whether it was a PR stunt. Some questioned whether it was actually her in the video in the first place, or just a convincing deep-fake. Two replies to such a tweet encapsulated the duality of the response: “I don’t believe for a second it’s the same woman,” one reply read, while another chimed in: “She’s still hot.”


Ultimately, far-right conspiracy theorists and horny reply guys’ response to Gomas as well as the media’s despicable handling of the footage, represents a turning point in the evolution — or devolution, as the case may be — of internet culture. Not only is it no longer true that private citizens enjoy a reasonable expectation of being able to have a very bad day — in fact, maybe even the worst day of their lives — without millions of people watching that bad day happen in real time; or that their physical appearance not be meticulously scrutinized; or that they be accused of being government plants whose identities have been erased by the CIA, by boomers who are too dumb to figure out how to do a simple LinkedIn search. Not only do we seem to have come to a universal understanding that vulnerable people who behave erratically make for good content, ethics be damned, but we also seem to have come to an agreement that these people deserve to have our own twisted narratives projected onto them, even if they beg for us to do otherwise.

I don’t know anything about Tiffany Gomas. I don’t know if she’s a bad person or a good person or if she had some sort of premonition or if she freaked out because she lost his AirPods or if she was unwell or took too many Ambien without going to sleep. I know absolutely nothing about her except for two things: she was a person who had a very bad day, and she was a person who wanted to be left alone. And because we weren’t willing to do the latter, she has to relive the former, over and over and over again, possibly for the rest of her life.