The Man Behind a Joke That Went Viral

Social media is still buzzing over a viral photo that sparked negative racial comments towards a Columbia University pre-med student.

After putting headphones in his nose and strapping a laptop charger across his arm, Terrell Finner, 22, uploaded a photo of himself that deceptively depicts him in a hospital bed connected to tubes.

His original Twitter post has been retweeted 20,000 times and liked another 21,015 times.

Finner first posted the picture on his Snapchat account and later to his Twitter account. He realized after a couple of hours that the image was getting retweeted by thousands of people.

“I would say most of my retweets are between five and 25,” Finner said. “But this was blowing up really fast.”

The comment under his original Twitter post read, “I’m emailing these pics to my chem prof bc I had a nosebleed & had to be hospitalized & can’t take this midterm Wed.” Finner said he intended for the post to be a joke.

After the picture was recycled through social media sites, people started creating their own theories about the image.

Some believed it was real and wished him well. Some understood the joke and found it funny, but others made offensive remarks.

“Another affirmative action success story,” a commenter posted on the DailyMail website. Others commented that the only reason Finner was at Columbia was because he’s a basketball player — even though he isn’t. “How did such a student even graduate high school let along manage to get into a college he will surely flunk out of? Oh wait…we all know how he got there.”

Finner posted several photos as joke on his Twitter account.
Finner posted several photos, including this one, as joke on his Twitter account.


Most commenters thought his picture was a serious attempt at getting out of a midterm and called him lazy and unworthy of pursuing pre-med.

“I was just thinking I’m black and I’m in America,” Finner said. “What else could I expect other than to get nasty comments? They were just trying to undercut my accomplishments.”

Finner didn’t get too upset about the remarks and decided to let his personal accolades speak for themselves.

He went to high school at a medical science academy in Texas and graduated from Penn State University last May, with a degree in health policy and administration.

Finner is currently in a post baccalaureate premedical program at Columbia and is not shy about having fun on social media.

“I was just joking around with my friends,” he said. “The pictures were so terrible it was supposed to obviously be funny but some people didn’t find it funny.”

Finner understands that when putting himself forward on social media he has to be ready for any scrutiny that comes his way.

People who know Finner weren’t surprised by the post.

“I thought it was hilarious. It was typical Terrell,” said Kenny Griffin, a close friend of Finner.

“At first glance I can see how someone would think it was real,” said Griffin. “But knowing Terrell I knew he’d only post something like that as a joke.”

Finner doesn’t regret posting the picture, and seemed pleased when people on different sites defended him against negative comments.

He’s not worrying about any backlash. To stir up more confusion, he posted a follow-up picture a week later with the headphones in his nose and a caption reading, “got discharged frm the hospitl. Gotta have oxygen tho. Thanks for your prayers #BlessUp.”

It was all in good fun,though. He took the midterm and did well on it.