On reddit, karma means everything and nothing at the same time.
For the uninitiated, reddit is a popular website where users submit news articles, stories and images, and “upvote” or “downvote” both entries and comments based on their value — measured by insightfulness, humor, and however the user perceives worth. The net score of a post or comment is called karma. Those figures alter the visibility of a post or comment. Each registered user carries a score.
One reddit user, for lack of a more suitable word, has amassed a shitload of karma for his comments — 626,838 and counting. That’s far more than anyone else who uses the website*. His user name is AndrewSmith1986. Surprisingly, on a website where nearly everyone is anonymous, his real name is Andrew Smith, born in 1986.
“I don’t like the anonymity,” Smith tells Guyism. “I am held accountable for the things I say. I’ve got no qualms about it. If I’d say it online, I’d say it in real life.”
And the 25-year-old GIS mapper speaks his mind online often, posting 150 comments a day he estimates, which has made him well known by the reddit community, celebrated by some, loathed by many. Despite some animosity his comments may draw based solely on the source, the volume of karma, or “imaginary internet points” as he calls them, says that for whatever reason, a lot of people have given him a thumbs up. It’s produced a veritable stockade of currency that means nothing … but status, maybe. Some accuse him of trying to hoard karma — an infinite resource, he says — but the way he puts it, the shockingly high total is a by-product of circumstance and saying whatever is on his mind.
“I think it’s timing, to be honest,” he says. “That and most of my comments don’t swing in either direction, positive or negative. Most of the time it’s just a comment, the first thing that pops in my head. My general opinion on things is along same lines as a lot of reddit.”
At least, the Louisiana native who holds an undergraduate degree in geology talks to a lot of people with the same general background: reddit is comprised of over seventy percent males, nearly half of them between the ages 18 and 34, the vast majority of whom have at least some college education if not a degree or two.
“Is it true that you are a computer generated average of all reddit users?” one user recently asked of him. (He answered “Negative.”)
But he says he doesn’t blow smoke up reddit’s ass, or preach popular opinions.
“It depends on the post. I play devil’s advocate a lot,” he says. “I’ll take the pro or anti-abortion stance. If the crowd is playing one direction, I will play the other.”
That’s not necessarily to be a prick but to breed discussion, he says. Smith comments mostly in the “Ask Reddit” forum (reddit is divided by topic into subsections called subreddits) where submissions range from the sober — “Is it true that Americans get a measly 2 weeks annual leave? If true, how does this affect the nation?” to the ridiculous — “I just witnessed an obese woman dig in her ass, sniff her hand, and wipe her hand on a table in an Old Navy. What is the grossest thing you have witnessed someone do in public?”. (Which is not to suggest that public hygiene and ass sniffing is unworthy of discussion.)
“You shouldn’t be commenting in an echo chamber, which is why I hate the atheism subreddit,” he says. “Everyone pats each other on back. It gets you nowhere.”
Some users have joked that he’s a robot. Another asked, “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time? I’m not shitposting here, you seem like a smart guy, but you spend seemingly every waking hour on reddit.”
No doubt a reasonable suspicion, but Smith says he uses reddit almost exclusively at work.
“Less than five percent of my time on reddit is outside of work,” he explains. “Most of my day for past few months has been on the phone, on hold, with various agencies. So when I sit on the phone, not doing anything, I reddit. Reddit doesn’t interfere with my work. It passes the time.”
And he says he has a life that exists separately from his online persona. He goes out with friends, he drinks, he goes biking, and hangs out with his girlfriend who doesn’t like that he spends a lot of time on reddit.
“Reddit is just one of the things I do,” he says. “The second it stops being fun, I’ll quit. I’m not running for office, I’m not making money from reddit, and I’m not selling the Andrew Smith brand. I AM Andrew Smith.”
A guy who happens to be Internet famous.
“My mom thinks it’s funny. My sister thinks it’s pretty funny. My girlfriend doesn’t give a fuck.”
* The person who uses the handles “probablyhittingonyou” and “karmanaut” is the same person, we understand. Put together, those accounts would a greater karma total than AndrewSmith1986, but Smith, it appears, has the account with the greatest number of karma.