The week of November 2, 2014

Who should use Reddit? Everybody. And nobody.

By Cooper Fleishman

Reddit is the worst-kept secret in media and the second-best weapon in a news editor’s arsenal. Next to Twitter, there is no better source for videos, images, stories, and discussion that will shape tomorrow’s front-page headlines.

This is going to sound cynical, but Reddit has made our work of sourcing viral content extremely easy. It literally does the aggregation for us—what’s left is narrowing it all down. College students, take note: If you have the spare time to mine Reddit for unique content once an hour, you’ll likely have a job (or at least an internship) within three months.

Let me be transparent here: I peddle Internet culture for a living. I check Reddit every morning, turn it on r/all, and fly through 10 to 20 pages of tech headlines, GIFs, videos, image macros, Q&As, and internal spats, searching for something bizarre enough to startle the normal people who don’t check Reddit into reading a story on it. The one true joy in my professional life is finding unknown communities of weird-ass people geeking out over weird-ass things, and sharing them with the world.

Reddit is a frothing trench of immeasurable sadness.

I get it. Not everyone wants to read stories about sex spreadsheets, secret teen diaries buried in incest confessionals, an illustrator turning people into sloths, or people with two sets of genitals. Suit yourself. Name something you’re interested in—a TV show, dining out in Austin, My Little Pony, or personal finance—and I guarantee Daily Dot staffers could find you a dedicated subreddit that you’ll quickly become addicted to. I would even recommend Reddit to someone looking for a better-fitting bra. Reddit contains multitudes!

Reddit is also a frothing trench of immeasurable sadness.

I feel conflicted about recommending the site to people I care about, people who aren’t surfing the Web all day, people with enriching personal lives and hands-on experiences away from their keyboards. This is why: You’re going to meet people, often young men, who are profoundly ignorant about gender and culture and society. These redditors think their stance on street harassment, or the protesters of Ferguson, Mo., is cool and edgy and (even worse) unassailable. If they don’t like having their opinions challenged, they will attack you with threats and harassment, even leak your personal information, and generally make the space too hostile for you to enjoy.

The temporary burden is on us to help make Reddit a better place.

These people firmly believe that their right to be great venom-sucking assholes, hurling rape threats and violent racial epithets, sexualizing children, and trading upskirt creepshots of strangers, trumps your right to feel safe. Worst of all, their foulest behavior is supported by the institution of Reddit. There is no site-wide system in place that prevents or discourages harassment on the site; the thankless task is left to overworked, unpaid volunteers. Reddit’s own CEO is sad about his users’ behavior, but he throws up his hands in a meek tech-bro ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and says “Every Man Is Responsible for His Own Soul.”

All of the above is true, and yet Reddit, with its five vague rules, is not implementing major structural changes anytime soon. Nor is it going away. Celebrity investors like Snoop Dogg have recently thrown financial support behind the site. Reddit acquired Alien Blue, the most popular Reddit mobile app. It also launched Redditmade, a DIY marketplace for redditors. Reddit’s power and influence can only grow—although, as Aaron Sankin argues in this issue, it may be broken beyond repair.

So granted that we all must use the front page of the Internet despite its general awfulness, the temporary burden is on us to help make Reddit a better place.

You know what? That’s actually not too hard. Dump the recommended subreddits on the front page. Find your own scene. Lead by example. Be the redditor you want to see. Take a page out of Wil Wheaton’s book and get super-geeky. And never stop contributing—because the louder the good voices get, the less room there’ll be for everyone else.


Photos via Montecruz Foto/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and William Cho/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) | Remix by Rob Price