By Rebekah Graham and Courtney Ryan
Reddit… is it a website? A noun? A verb?
Maybe it is all of the above.
Reddit is an online community that began in 2005. Although considered a social news website, it serves a variety of purposes. At its core, Reddit is basically an online bulletin board. Registered Reddit users can post links, comment on the links others post, and vote links up or down depending on whether or not they like them. The more up-votes a link gets, the higher it appears on the list, and thus the more people are likely to see it. Reddit is a way of sharing useful internet resources and connecting with others; it’s a collection of people all seeking the same thing: help and inspiration from online “friends”. Reddit: it’s a place people meet and it’s a thing people do.
Reddit users can not only share links to websites or pictures, but can also simply ask a question if they want. In response, other Reddit users (Redditers) might flood the comments with nuggets of advice and suggestions. A plethora of subreddits exist to help separate topics into more manageable categories. People can go into these user-managed subreddits to find resources more relevant to what they are searching for. Each subreddit in itself is a little community – a place where people with common interests can come together and brainstorm. From veganism to pictures of birds, there seems to be a subreddit for just about anyone.
But… is it really for anyone? A unique aspect of Reddit is the curious gender disparity that can be seen. This, among other topics, is explained a little in this youtube video from PBS:
As the video says, about 72% of Redditers are male – that is a surprisingly high number! Look at it in comparison to Pinterest, a female-dominated version of the same basic concept of Reddit. What accounts for the gender divide that exists between these two sites? Both the video above and an animated video made by College Humor (in two very different ways) address the fact that women are targeted, sexualized, objectified, and harassed by Redditers. This is apparently no uncommon issue. As such, perhaps Pinterest was created as an outlet for women who felt a need for a female-friendly Reddit equivalent. Both sites allow users to curate and share ideas and topics, but with two unique audiences in mind.
The PBS youtube video also addresses the story of Reddit becoming involved in the SOPA blackout of January 2012. This movement was not organized by Reddit itself, but rather by the population that uses Reddit. During this time, Redditers pulled together around the nation and collaborated without any direction from authority. This united effort to work together against a threat is a good example of the power of social media. Redditers spoke, and the site managers heard them. Actually, they not only heard them… they listened. Online discussion boards are not only a place to waste time and exchange funny memes, they are also a platform that can be used to organize, plan, and dream. In this case, Reddit provided an ideal, easily-accessible space for web enthusiasts to talk with each other about what would be the best action to take against a threat to their freedom. From this effort stemmed an multi-site online movement, including websites such as Google, Wikipedia, and Mozilla. Obviously, a little bit of conversation can make a whole lot of change.
Reddit is more than just a website where people can swap links. This unique site is a way of communication, a common space for people to come together from around the world. Its a place where people can speak and have a chance to make a difference. Instead of being a one-man show, Reddit gives users the opportunity to have a say in what is important… Reddit gives users a voice.