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Reading into Reddit

By Julian Aidan, Daily Arts Writer
Published January 31, 2013

It’s 2 a.m. on a Tuesday, five weeks into your first semester in college. Your paper is due for your Academic Writing and Literature class on some poet no one dead or alive ever cared about in six-and-a-half hours. You’re on your computer, but it’s late enough that your Twitter feed is updating at a snail’s pace and your Facebook chat bar is void of little green dots. Are you going to peel your eyes away from your browser and start filling that blindingly white, painfully empty digital page in Word? No. You’re going on Reddit because Emily Dickinson can shove it.

You’re bombarded by new information. Pages on pages of blue links and illegible thumbnails tempt your cursor. You’re finding out what others have just recently discovered, and smile smugly when someone’s “Today I Learned” has been in your repertoire for years. You browse through thousands of replies to a thread asking for fan theories. Your tired lips hint at a smile when you find out about the new Daft Punk album, and you laugh — but not loud enough to wake up your sleeping, responsible roommate — at a pun-prone raccoon.

A community built on versatility

Founded in June 2005 by University of Virginia graduates Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, Reddit has exploded in recent years in terms of popularity and content diversity. Initially dubbed a “news aggregator,” whose intent was to allow less tech-savvy individuals the same kind of social bookmarking experience as del.icio.us and Digg offer, Reddit puts any given submitted link’s fate in the userbase’s hands.

Users submit all of the content posted to Reddit, with the exception of blog posts and announcements provided by Reddit’s staff. The community, consisting of Redditors, can then promote (“upvote”) or demote (“downvote”) user-submitted content based on individual preferences, determining what gets the highest visibility.

It’s one of the only places on the Internet where you can find professional gaming coverage, metaphysical discussion, intelligent (and not-so-intelligent) discourse on world politics and business and, of course, hundreds of thousands of pictures of cats. One of the Internet’s most infamous time-wasters and a beaming monument to what Internet communities can accomplish, Reddit is (under the mountains of memes) an awesome example of what can happen when millions of like-minded people come together.

With 30-million submitted links and posts in 2012 alone, Reddit owes part of its success to a network of separate boards — subreddits — dedicated to specific topics. This system allows users to pick and choose what they want to see and when. Individuals can view their own “front page,” an amalgamation of subreddits they are subscribed to, or see individual subreddits individually.

“No matter what you like to do, there’s a community out there full of like-minded people that will give you their experiences or new ideas or feedback on your existing stuff,” said Kevin Davis, moderator of /r/AnnArbor — the Ann Arbor subreddit. Its mass appeal is in equal parts due to its diverse content and its users.

These run the gamut of interests. Several are devoted almost entirely to image macros (AdviceAnimals being the most popular, with upwards of 1.9-million subscribers) and amusing images (“funny” and “pics” both boast over 3-million subscribers), while others promote discussion and discovery of current events (“worldnews,” “science,” “politics,” and “technology” have over 2.4-million subscribers). The former group is what people will associate Reddit with, while avid Redditors know that there’s more to be discovered under the crust of Facebook feed pictures and passive-aggressive notes.

Straying from the multi-million subscriber subreddits, users will find a wealth of subreddits such as those that showcase high-quality photography, nearly every possible trading card game, TV show, book series, video game and discussion/story-based boards.