I am not a big internet guy. At least I wasn’t, before I discovered the blackhole of wasted time that is reddit.com. Before I first happened upon this website (at the insistence of a coworker of mine, who certainly is an internet guy), I was more or less content to do my usual fifteen minute to half hour sessions consisting of deleting junk mail for Christmas ornament outlets that I’ve never shopped at and browsing video game reviews or local news. I had a nice, orderly system that in no way seemed to control my life whatsoever. Until Reddit arrived.
Reddit, for those of you who don’t know, is more or less a glorified bulletin board, where the members of said website can post links to practically anything that they want to, and the members will then upvote or downvote content based upon what they find to be the most interesting, funny, disgusting, cute,etc. Normally, each of these submissions is posted into subcategories of Reddit, called “subreddits,” which can range from “r/funny” (in which only funny submissions are to be posted, to “r/WTF” (where only images/videos of things that will make you cringe while cursing “WTF!!?!?” at your computer monitor), to “r/homebrewing” (where only homebrewed beer is discussed at length). There literally is a subreddit for absolutely anything that you could possibly imagine. In short, Reddit is the internet, condensed down into a form that makes it far easier to find the content that you find desirable.
The thing that I find most appealing about Reddit is the complete lack of rhetoric that it displays. There are no advertisers paying for slots on the sides of the page. There is no real product that Reddit trying to sell you on. Reddit, for lack of a better term, is just on large, ongoing discussion between members of the internet. Sometimes they want to talk about something funny. Sometimes they want to look at pictures of adorable kittens getting stuck in boxes (and really, who wouldn’t?), sometimes they want to talk to Neil DeGrasse Tyson about astrophysics. In this regard, the rhetoric of Reddit is dictated not by some corporate suit who is trying to sell you on something, but rather by those who are in the conversation. Once you dig into it, it is really quite nice.
For every nice thing that I can think of to say about Reddit, I can only follow it up with saying that it is the ugliest website that I have ever been to. It is sterile white with pale blue highlights around the header… and that’s about it. As a website that is solely driven by the links that the various users (called Redditors) post, Reddit makes an attempt to make those links the highlight of the webpage. In this regard, it succeeds nicely. In every other regard, it falls on its face. Surfing on Reddit harkens back to the early days of the internet, around 1998, when graphic designers and Photoshop were still alien. Seriously, it looks as though you could probably whip the page together on MS Word in about 15 minutes.
This is where Reddit truly shines. While it is not obvious as first, as the aesthetics of the website could be enough to turn most people off, Reddit has a truly spectacular community. In fact, I would argue that it is not the links that people post on Reddit that make the website so special, it is the conversations that the Redditors engage in in the comments box that truly make the website whole. Never before on the internet have I seen a group of random strangers engaging in mostly civil and informed discourse on subjects as varying as evolution to the proper way to remove a railroad spike from one’s hand. While the aesthetics of the page are enough to make the site itself wholly unrelatable, digging a little deeper yields the real gold that is Reddit.
Once again, Reddit is not really the kind of website that is attempting to invoke a specific feeling in you, per se. It is an experience that is totally streamlined to your personal experience, based upon whatever it is that you are interested in that particular moment. In that regard, the affect of Reddit is amazing. It is everything that you could possibly want in a website. However, it takes time to build up that streamlined experience, and in the meantime the affect is wholly lackluster. Reddit really is whatever you make of it.