Reddit – A Bucking Bull Subdued by PSY’s Dance Moves

Reddit is the anti-thesis to social media. The site is not about developing a public profile, at least one not linked to the offline world (Couts 2012). It is this commitment to anonymity that allows the site to foster discussions and content that are uninhibited by social norms. Remember, this is the site that hosts boards such as r/picsofdeadkids and the community that asked rapists to tell their side of the story (Reddit 2014a; UnholyDemigod 2014; The Cajun Boy 2012). In short, it is not exactly the place for celebrity PR.

The self-indulgent and self-promoting celebrity feeds of Facebook and Twitter are a far cry from Reddit’s own celebrity PR outlet. r/IAmA is used, although  it must be stressed not strictly, for celebrities to conduct a kind of open-forum with the Reddit community and their favourite celebs (Reddit 2014b).

The 25th highest ranked (as of 20/8/2014) AMA was conducted by South Korean musician PSY (Reddit 2012). PSY is one of the few Asian celebrities to conduct an AMA, and the only one to be aggregated as within the top 100 of all time (Reddit 2014c). He answered questions ranging from how he keeps a straight face dancing (because he’s serious about it) to what his favourite breakfast food is (korean food). Overall, the AMA presents PSY as fairly laid back, especially as his AMA was not tied to the promotion of any particular project. Although his responses seem short, perhaps as English is his second language, he allowed users to ask anything and he answered most of their inquiries.

AMAs are the only outlet that celebrities are allowed to (somewhat) control their image on Reddit. The rest of the content is user-generated and aggregated. For example, PSY’s song Gangnam Style has its own subreddit (r/GangnamStyle) and a search of the keyword ‘PSY’ on the site locates fan drawn images, jokes, and other varying content (Reddit 2014d). This content is not controlled by PSY or his PR reps but rather his fans and/or cynics.

If we are to learn anything from Reddit, it is that when they commit, they fully commit. We must look only to their Boston Bombing witch-hunt to see how passionate they can be (ABC News 2013). Reddit, with its values strongly planted in being the opposite of social media, provides an uncontrollable landscape for celebrity public image. PSY has bravely traversed the landscape, emerging relatively unscathed and perhaps with an expanded fan-base, due to a catchy song and a well-received forum with his fans.

Reference List:

ABC News 2013, ‘Reddit says sorry for Boston bombing ‘witch hunt’’, 23 April, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-23/reddit-apolgises-for-boston-witch-hunt/4645386&gt;

Couts, A 2012, ‘State of the Web: Reddit, The World’s Best Anonymous Social Network’, Digital Trends, 11 September, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.digitaltrends.com/opinion/reddit-worlds-best-anonymous-social-network/&gt;

PSY (PSY_Oppa) 2012, ‘I am South Korean Singer, Rapper, Composer, Dancer and Creator of Gangnam Style PSY. AMA’, Reddit, thread, 24 October, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/120oqd/i_am_south_korean_singer_rapper_composer_dancer/&gt;

Reddit 2014a, ‘Pics of Dead Kids’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/PicsOfDeadKids/&gt;

Reddit 2014b, ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/wiki/index&gt;

Reddit 2014c, ‘Top scoring links : IAmA’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/top/?sort=top&t=all&gt;

Reddit 2014d, ‘GangnamStyle’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.reddit.com/r/gangnamstyle&gt;

The Cajun Boy 2012, ‘If You’ve Ever Wondered What It’s Like To Be A Rapist, Have We Got A Thread For You!’, Uproxx, weblog post, 27 December, viewed 20/8/14, <http://uproxx.com/webculture/2012/07/rapists-explain-why-they-rape-on-reddit/&gt;

UnholyDemigod 2014, ‘The ‘ask a rapist’ thread’, Reddit, thread, 16 December, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/MuseumOfReddit/comments/1t1r2z/the_ask_a_rapist_thread/&gt;

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3 comments

  1. I find it interesting that reddit has that disturbing side to it and the ways it is different to the social media we are used to.
    The point you made about PSY being able to answer questions, i momentarily wondered isn’t that what they do on twitter? However, having my own experience with a writer of a show on reddit i understand how it is different. It’s almost a completely different environment where it’s more filtered and they can really see what people want to know. While some could argue this happens on twitter, i feel it’s definitely a more controlled environment as you say and i don’t know why but it feels like the celebrity can answer more freely than on twitter as it’s not necessarily posted to their entire friends list.
    To add to what you said about the hate, it definitely happens on most social media sites but it’s good that they can come out unscathed.

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  2. It’s a lovely contrast you make and one of the reasons that I like Reddit as a platform; the lack of self-promotion/advertising/celebrity endorsement as opposed to Facebook and Twitter. I find Reddit a little daunting, having only used it a few times, and hadn’t heard of the the AMA phenomena before. After having seen PSY’s Twitter account and the number of photos he posts with other celebrities (the photo usually taken by a third party), his AMA gives a nice contrast, and for me, makes him seem a bit more like a relatively normal human that a manufactured projection of a person. I would be interesting to see if any other Asian celebrities have used the Reddit AMA to connect with fans on a personal, less polished way.

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  3. Hey this is a cool post and you make a really good point about how the nature of a reddit forum kind of nullifies the celebrity publicity bullshit machine and any celebrity wanting to engage with users are at the mercy of either adoration or wrath. Nothing like a down-vote to keep your ego in check!

    I respect the fact that PSY was up for the challenge and its great he was willing to talk with his fans on a level playing field

    I don’t have a reddit account (yet) but I’ve been thinking lately that I should give it a go. But as you explained the intensity of the users and how seriously they take makes it seem like a whole other world requiring hours of commitment and an never ending stream of witty one-liners. Anyway, for entertainments sake, if you haven’t seen youtube comedy duo Luke and Amir you should check them out, and they have a skit about reddit which is pretty funny. Kinda sums up fame in a way too when Amir gets 50 000 down-votes, but he’s still happy about it because he makes to the front page. Any publicity is good publicity!

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