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Watch Old Man Steve film a TikTok — and listen to the joy he receives from creating content. (Matthew Sgroi | Fort Worth Report)

Richland Hills resident Steve Austin pulled his iPhone 12 Pro out of his right pants pocket, swiped to the camera app and hit record. 

After briefly addressing his audience, Austin popped a fresh K-Cup into his new Keurig machine, closed the lid to a click, and pressed the brew button.

This simple video of him brewing his morning coffee would be viewed over 300,000 times and liked over 50,000 times.

On TikTok, a social media platform that allows users to create and share short-form videos and clips, the 84 year old known as “Old Man Steve” – is a celebrity. At least, that’s what his account’s 1.7 million followers tell you.

The newfound status, and love, doesn’t go to his head. 

“Being recognized is, kind of, cool, I guess,” Austin said. 

Older creators breaking out on TikTok

Fans leave messages of admiration and well-wishes on Old Man Steve’s TikToks. Giselle Fernandez, a 22-year-old from Tampa, Florida, consistently implores him to “Have a great day!” Amy Alondra, 18, from Houston leaves comments saying, “You’re the cutest old man alive!!” 

TikTok is now a booming industry. Nearly 50 million users are on the app, and it’s climbing everyday. 

Yet, for an up-and-coming industry like TikTok, demographics of the creator economy are skewed a couple of ways. Creators are more likely to be young, with 63% in Gen Z, and 52% are men, according to the Global Web Index

Older creators, though, are beginning to become popular. Some of the more notable older TikTokers include Brunch with Babs, The Old Gays, and Cooking with Lynja

Austin is riding this wave of popularity, and commands an enthusiastic following with his authentic style. Watch any Old Man Steve video, and it’s evident, Austin radiates positivity. 

‘A surprise — and delight’

Austin’s content was an instant hit for fan and follower Alondra, the Houston woman. 

“He feels like the grandpa you never had,” Alondra said. 

Austin has heard this before. 

“Of course, my followers were all young people, and they started referring to me as grandpa,” Austin said. “They wanted me to be their grandpa, or I reminded them of their grandpa.”

Though he isn’t a grandfather himself, nor does Austin have any kids, he thinks of his own followers as family. He says his actual family, his sister and nephew, don’t get too jealous.

Austin’s simple, self-produced videos of him just saying, “Hello,” or sharing grandfatherly wisdom, resonate with fans who need a “comfort watch,” as Alondra calls it. 

Her “For You Page” is inundated with usual videos of young people dancing or performing skits. Austin’s videos are a nice change of pace. 

“It’s a surprise — and delight — whenever I see a new Old Man Steve video pop up on my page,” Alondra said.

Austin showcases his status quo-defying content in a truly authentic way, contrasting societal preconceptions about technology and older people, according to his fans.

“I didn’t expect much from it because I figured, well, it’s a young person’s medium,” Austin said. “They dance around and gals do makeup, and all that kind of stuff. It just wasn’t my thing, so I just started doing stupid stuff and started getting a following.”

Austin occasionally dances, but he relies on weekly segments, like “Cooking with Old Man Steve” and “Magic Saturdays with Old Man Steve.” This approach has brought Austin to where he is now. 

‘I just enjoy it’

He still finds joy in every video — 1.7 million followers later.

“Doing my videos is the most fulfilling thing for me,” Austin said. “It has gotten a little bit harder as I’ve gotten older, but I just enjoy it.”

Austin lives in Richland Hills, a suburb on Airport Freeway, about 10 miles northwest of downtown Fort Worth. He’s retired, after working as a musical theater manager for more than 30 years.  

Yet as Austin alluded to, being an older creator does have its cons. Even his age has made him a target for scammers and hackers. 

His initial account, “omsteve,” which had amassed 1.7 million followers, was hacked in February. Austin is still locked out of his original account. 

He was forced to make a second account to continue posting content. Austin aptly named it “realomsteve.” His new account has 1,277 followers.

“The fact that I got hacked and lost my account really, really upset me,” Austin said.

“It not only upset me, it made me physically ill. I was in bed a few days over that.”

Austin still doesn’t know who targeted him and still laments the situation. 

“That’s my thing — that’s what I do — and it was taken away from me,” Austin said. “It was an experience. But not a pleasant one.”

Austin says that TikTok has been made aware of the issue, and is supposedly working to fix it. 

When he does finally regain access to the account, Old Man Steve has nothing planned for future content. That’s just not his style.

“I don’t really plan,” Austin said. “I’m just being me.” 

Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Matthew Sgroi is the 2022-23 Fort Worth Report multimedia fellow. He can be reached at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.com or (503)-828-4063. Sgroi is a current senior at Texas Christian University, majoring...