The rise and fall of an internet celebrity.
On an afternoon in late August, Scott Steffens posts a short comment grouching about the high cost of soda and popcorn at movie plexes to the social networking site Reddit. “I mean seriously,” he writes. The Appleton area man hasn’t commented anywhere on Reddit in a few weeks, which is unusual. It’s sort of like a young Tiger Woods not hitting a putt for a month or two. Steffens, 32, goes by the online moniker way_fairer, the user who has attracted more “comment karma” on the site, 2.8 million points, than any other in its history, a figure accumulated one snappy, heavily upvoted (liked) comment at a time.
Like Woods, Steffens is in semi-retirement. “After awhile it becomes repetitive and not as fun,” he says. “I’m on [the site] like once every 18 days.” He accumulated most of his points while dedicating some four hours a day to Reddit, a site where users comment on a boundless variety of topics and then vote those comments up and down. Over the course of about two years, he laser-focused his efforts on identifying fast-rising topic threads during morning and early evening peak hours, while working as a server in a chain restaurant.
Then he’d deploy his trademark wit, which was odd enough, and incisive enough, to occasionally enrapture the hordes of Reddit. Steffens’ second-most upvoted comment, from 2015, pulled in a crushing 5,266 upvotes: “Falconry is cool until the bird flies away. Then you’re just a dude with a weird glove on his hand, staring at the sky.” He’s said other things about masturbating and cat anuses and the weirdness of pediatric urologists that you wouldn’t repeat at the dinner table.
A redhead, Steffens stands at well over six feet tall, and his hair, combed over in a wave-like curl, adds another inch or two. At his current day job, he’s a successful salesman of safety compliance resources (think OSHA posters), and he lives in an Appleton apartment with his girlfriend. It’s a thoroughly non-Reddit existence, except for those times his girlfriend catches him bent over his iPhone, laughing at one of his own comments. A published poet, Steffens partially credits his interest in writing to an ego-smashing, psychedelic mushroom trip that happened midway through a troubled seven-year stint at UW-Eau Claire, where he eventually graduated with a major in English and a minor in philosophy.
“I literally felt like the second coming of Jesus Christ for like three hours,” he says. “Obviously I’m not the second coming of Jesus Christ. The point is everyone has the potential to bring that out in themselves.” Previously a hardline atheist, Steffens felt a new openness to religious experience. “It made me want to write … and it made me want to reach people and talk to people and make them a little more aware of the world.”
He also wants to branch out into marketing but isn’t sure how to proceed. “I want to be working with social media,” he says, “and reaching a demographic with something that makes them feel something and want to click.” ◆