I have an unhealthy relationship with Reddit. I’d like to say it’s symbiotic and co-dependent… but it’s not. I love Reddit. Reddit does not love me.
If you’ve never been on Reddit before, this post is certainly not encouraging you to start. In fact, I’d strongly advise you didn’t. There is no time-sucking interweb pastime like the Reddit vortex. It’s both tantalizing and brain-numbing, informative and stupid.
First off, a disclaimer of sorts- the Reddit interface is ugly as sin. It looks bland and repetitive and confusing. If you stare at it for long enough, something in the primordial recesses of your brain will click. And you will begin the never-ending spiral of clicking things that just does not seem to stop.
Reddit is primarily a link sharing site- it holds very little content of it’s own. The idea is to share links that you find interesting, and people up-vote or down-vote them. The content with the most up-votes swims to the visible top of the list of links. Content that is down-voted is buried. In theory, that means content on Reddit is curated by the community, and only the best of it ends up on the Reddit front page- the front page of the Internet itself, as they like to say.
Reddit is divided into subReddits that cater to about a million different interests, and dictate where links to content should be posted. Again, no content is held by Reddit itself- even things like images and gifs are hosted off-site, mostly on Imgur, and only the link itself submitted. The most popular subReddits, like r/Funny, r/WTF and r/AdviceAnimals (the absolute meme capital of cyberspace) are the default categories of Reddit- every new user is automatically subscribed to their content. If you hit Reddit without being signed into your account, it’s these defaults that automatically make up front page content.
The beauty of Reddit is that, once you are a registered user with an account, you can unsubscribe to the default categories (which I did immediately with r/Atheism– there’s only so much gratuitous religion-hate I can stand) and subscribe to the ones that interest you (personally, I’d recommend r/FacePalm and r/LongReads). Using some kind of complex algorithm (or something), Reddit filters the most popular links from all the categories you’re subscribed to into your front page. For all intents and purposes, you choose the content you want to see, and the user-base votes on the best of that content.
And that’s the best of Reddit- the most awesome content on the web generally comes from there. The funny meme or bizarre picture you saw on FaceBook this morning…? Chances are that it first showed up on Reddit. Yesterday.
The worst of Reddit is… well… pretty bad. It’s developed a reputation for being misogynistic which is, sadly, true. It’s also got a bad rep for operating around the very centre of the hive mind. Also true. Unpopular opinions are at the mercy of Reddit’s up-vote/down-vote system, and most of them are down-voted to oblivion. Mark Twain said that when you find yourself on the side of popular opinion, it’s time to stop and reflect. The problem is that with Reddit’s default settings, unpopular opinions- those with five or more down-votes- become essentially invisible. Which leaves little to reflect on (unless you want to actually, ya know, think for yourself. Which I’m not sure is encouraged).
It may also be Mark Twain who said that memes are in-jokes for people who have no friends. The longer you spend on Reddit, the more references and in-jokes you understand. It makes you feel like part of the crowd. The derpy, loser crowd without enough Real Life friends.
Reddit is entirely what you make of it. For some people, that’s a front page full of the most depraved porn you can find.
For me, it’s an endless vortex of interesting articles, amazing photos, and stupid jokes. Whole days can be wasted on there. It’s the ultimate site for blissful time-wasting and rampant procrastination.
This has to stop. The Most Amazing Man In The Universe is thoroughly sick of hearing me say “Oh, I already saw that on Reddit!”, or variably, “I read this thing on Reddit…”. He tells me he is a ‘Reddit widow’. I tell him that’s better than being a real widow.
Clearly, I need some kind of intervention.