Have you ever heard the name Erik Martin? Sounds vaguely familiar but you’re not sure why? Well, right now he is dominating the poll results for TIME’s Most Influential People list. In fact, he is beating (by a lot) people whose names you most definitely have heard — like Barack Obama, Jeremy Lin and Adele.
But how can that be when you don’t even know why Erik Martin is a notable character? Because you probably spend less than 10 hours a day on the Internet and use it primarily for email, Facebook and a little news. Maybe you’ve heard of Reddit or even once went to the site, but it just looked like a bunch of unorganized mumbo-jumbo, so you left and never returned.
However, millions of people who belong to the underbelly of the Internet-savvy population spend countless hours trolling Reddit, an information sharing site that lets users rate stories, photos (sometimes questionable ones) and memes. And it is that sect of Internet users that is on a mission to make Erik Martin — Reddit’s community manager — TIME’s most influential person of the year.
Since users can vote as many times as they want, Martin’s high lead is likely the result of a campaign brewing on Reddit to make him number one, and not actually because that many people in America think he is incredibly influential. It is also worth noting that Martin has also received the most votes against his placement on the list, since users can answer “definitely” or “no way” to the question “Should [insert candidate] be on the list?”
While Martin was a key Internet figure in opposing SOPA and PIPA antipiracy laws, he is still relatively unknown in mainstream America, and undoubtedly less recognizable than, say, Ron Paul, who is currently in third place. However, Paul’s high ranking, though more understandable than Martin (considering his presidential candidacy), can also attest to the fact that the poll is dominated by frequent web users — Paul is notoriously more popular on the Internet than he is with real life voters.
Right now, Asghar Farhadi is in second place. He’s the director who won an Oscar for his film “A Separation,” which follows a couple in Iran through its marital problems. While you likely saw Farhadi accept the award or maybe read about the film online, we’re willing to bet that the majority of you haven’t actually watched “A Separation” — again, an example that this poll is more of an Internet popularity contest that a reflection of real-life influence.
On that note, Martin has taken notice of his strong lead in the poll and claims he is flattered but surprised that he is garnering so many votes. Even he acknowledges that he is not “not nearly as influential, accomplished, or Cumberbachtian as the other nominees.” Martin is instead asking Reddit users to vote for Farhadi.
“As absurd as it is for some guy who works at a website to wind up with more votes than movie stars and world leaders, it may be even more absurd for users of that website to vote for a filmmaker from a country most of us will never visit, whose work most of you will never see, and indirectly support an industry that most of us fought against just a few months ago,” Martin posted. “Yet, that is sincerely the way I hope this small story ends.”
And here’s the kicker: While TIME encourages people to vote in the poll, it’s the magazine’s editors who will have the last word on the final 100 list. The poll winner will be “included” in the TIME 100 issue. We’re anxious to see where Martin (assuming he maintains his lead until voting ends on April 6) shows up on the final 100 list. The Internet has spoken — will TIME listen?