Reddit: A Double-Edged Sword

For this blog, I will be focusing Reddit and its community, and reflecting upon my experiences with both.

Reddit is a site that exemplifies Barlow’s imagined cyberspace (1996). The community is allowed almost complete freedom and is only subjected to only five core rules and the rules of the subreddits they post on, if the moderators choose to have any (Reddit 2014a; Reddit 2014b). The site’s main admins will not interfere with subreddits and their moderators unless there is a violation of the main five rules. For many, the morals and ethics upheld in the offline world are largely irrelevant.

The sites construction is confusing and seems messy to a user that is unfamiliar with the way it works. When I first began engaging in Reddit, as part of a university assessment, I found it overwhelming. You open the ‘front page of the internet’, only to be faced with a series of links varying from cute animal snaps to thoughtful comments on the construction of gender. It was also confronting how quickly the community can move from considerate to smutty in the space of one thread.

Its moderation is at the mercy of the wider community who can control it by up-voting or down-voting the content. On the face of it, Reddit is a content democracy. However, without laws to govern it, it can be ruthless when faced with an unpopular opinion. When a user posts a bigoted or abusive content, there is a mass of people showing acceptance by up-voting it, not to mention those who also comment their support.

It is the chaotic side of Reddit that often gets it in trouble. Most recently, Reddit has been linked to the celebrity nudes scandal of 2014. A subreddit was created called ‘The Fappening‘ which documented the scandal and is archiving the pictures (Vultaggio 2014; Evans 2014). I was conflicted when viewing this subreddit. While I most certainly do not agree with the sharing of these pictures and much less with the obvious delight of those who have shared them, my support for open discourse and free speech is equal to my support for women. This conflict is indicative of my feelings towards Reddit as a whole. Do I support freedom of speech wholly? Or do I uphold and defend my beliefs and accept that some voices should be stifled?

Reference List

Barlow, J 1996, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, viewed 3/9/14, <https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html&gt;

Evans, S J 2014, ‘How Reddit became a one-stop shop for the iCloud photos: Online forum giving advice on how to share images, protect the hacker’s identity – all while urging users to donate to a prostate cancer charity’, Daily Mail, 2 September, viewed 3/9/14, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2740481/How-Reddit-one-stop-shop-celebrity-iCloud-photos.html&gt;

Reddit 2014a, ‘Rules of Reddit’, Reddit, viewed 3/9/14, <http://www.reddit.com/rules&gt;

Reddit 2014b, ‘Moderation: Basics’, Reddit, viewed 3/9/14, <http://www.reddit.com/wiki/moderation&gt;

Vutagiio, M 2014, ‘What Is ‘The Fappening’? Alleged McKayla Maroney Nude Pictures Banned From Reddit’, IB Times, 2 Sepetember, viewed 3/9/14, <http://www.ibtimes.com/what-fappening-alleged-mckayla-maroney-nude-pictures-banned-reddit-1676484&gt;

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3 comments

  1. I had the exact same experience when I first experienced Reddit (confusing, and incredibly basic despite the chaotic set-up), and still find it difficult to follow sometimes due to the sheer fact that there are SO many individual areas to investigate when looking past just the main subreddits. It seems as if it will be important for you to reflect on the preconceived ideas you have of Reddit, and try to refrain from imposing your ideas on the experience you will be documenting. How will you be documenting this experience? Will you be contributing your own ideas on Reddit? Blogging about it? Creating content on YouTube, tumblr, instagram, or a Twitter feed?

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  2. Great post to read, especially as I was also tossing up the idea of joining reddit to engage with the online community of my own research site, hentai. You raised some really interesting point when you speculated about whether that subreddit was merely a way to aggregate information, but an endorsement of an exploitative practice on the other. Which begs the question that when channels like these promote, encourage or simply offer a platform for behavior or speech that would ordinarily be subject to moral policing in the offline world does it validate it to an extent?

    I remember listening to a podcast by Dan Savage on viewing fetish pornography online, and he was discussing whether having an outlet through watching these videos was enough and prevented anyone from acting it out in real life, or whether the realisation that others had similar desires was an endorsement and validation and could potentially escalate behavior. I wonder whether internet (im)morality has real world implications…?

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  3. I had a similar experience when first using reddit, there was so much going on but as i started to understand the concept of reddit it became easier to navigate my way through the site. I really like that you are using reddit as a platform for your digital artefact, as it is different and not very many people are using it. I feel as though reddit is a great platform especially for this subject as it allows you to become completely immersed in the culture, making your auto-ethnographic part of this assignment easier to write. Just a few questions will you be contributing any thing to the subreddits? or are you just observing what is happening within that subreddit? All in all I think this will be a really interesting artefact.

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